Aug 26, 2010


... the Italians would had never came up with risotto? Seriously- I thought about that for a second and all I felt was this big empty crushing hole in my heart (and a growl in my stomach too).  All I can say is that humanity would had missed out on something if we never knew of the existance of risotto. Civilization would had collapsed (ok maybe I'm exxagerating there) and my life would had not been the same.
So let's start the praising:
There are so many reasons why I love risotto- first and foremost, it's delicious in a euphoric heavenly way. I have yet to meet someone who does not appreciate this dish. Secondly, it's super versatile. Risotto opens up to an array of tastebud preferences- you can flavour it in almost any way you like and accompany it with fishes, meats, lamb, or go vegetarian if you prefer. You can even match it up with every season of the year, how cool is that- risotto primavera anyone? Thirdly, it's a delight to make. Yes it is- don't be intimidated! You just need to set some time aside and make sure you serve it immediately so it doesn't dry up and turn into a block of rice. Other then that, all the smells and sounds and textures... I love every single bit of making risotto!
Anyway, with that said, risotto tends to be one of those dishes I make if I have a ''fancy looking dinner'' planned out because it looks good and therefore makes you look good in front of your guests! Not too long ago, I coupled it up with daurade fish and lots of green things: asparagus, kaffir lime leaves, coriander...
Risotto dries up quickly- so make sure you serve it immediately! This is the texture I had just before serving:
There is a really great visual guide to making basic risotto on Serious Eats- check it out!
Since I had some parmesan left over, I shaved off some large slices, sprinkled them with black sesame seeds and baked in the oven until they became crisps. They made some great accessorizing to the dish!
And last but not least, eat with your eyes first! I plated the risotto over some pea puree which added both colour and taste to the dish.
What are your favourite risotto based dishes? I'd love to know!

Jun 30, 2010


I have to say, mille feuille is one of those desserts that I enjoy eating but that I also truly enjoy making. The fantastic thing about the mille feuille is it's versatility- why stick to the classic recipe when you can play around with ingredients and flavours? Here in Paris, it is common to find each patisserie display an innovative presentation around this iconic dessert.
Like with risotto, I find that mille feuille should match each season of the year, and with strawberries being the fruit-to-eat these days, it was easy for me to make my decision in the kitchen. Plus, I had gone strawberry picking so I used up a basket of fresh goodies straight off the farm! Pure bliss!

To make it, you will need of course puff pastry. You can either make it from scratch or buy a ready made roll, but the important thing is to have it bake between two baking trays. You can place the puff pastry on the baking tray, cover it with parchment paper and sandwich it with another baking tray- this will allow the dough to remain flat yet maintain it's crispiness.
Bake them for 20 mins at 200C, remove from oven and sprinkle with icing sugar before baking once again at 160C for 10 to 15 minutes so that it caramelizes. You end up with one side that is shiny and another that is matte.
Let the puffies cool then spread a layer of your garnish. You can go with either a custard-based stuffing or something more creamy- I prepared a mixture of whipped cream, mascarpone, sugar and some rose water.
A lil'sprinkle of pistachios
Then the wonderful strawberries
And for some glamour, I brushed on some culinary gold dust in a pink/red colour
There you have it, strawberry mille feuille with undertones of crushed pistachios and a rose flavoured creamy mascarpone filling!

It was delicious, and I can't wait to try out the long list of flavours and fillings to experiment with for my next mille feuille sessions!
You can also now find this dessert featured on Saveur!

Jun 28, 2010


You may have noticed (or may not have noticed, if you're new here- welcome in that case!) that many of the recipes on my blog are Middle Eastern. Everything has a reason of course- in this case it would be because part of my origins are from that part of the world. Countries like Syria or Lebanon boast with glorious culinary specialties, especially when it comes to my favourite part of any meal- dessert. For instance, I had featured a post on the famous ''knafeh bil jibne'' not too long ago, which is a very popular sweet treat in Levant countries. However, Egypt (to me it's part of the Middle East even if it's on the African continent! you can of course agree to disagree!) is not what I would consider a country famous for it's sweets, wouldn't you say? I mean of course, it has a tremendous pride in it's version of falafels, but desserts? Could you name one on the top of your head? If not, then let me introduce you to one of my all time favourites: basboussa. Now many will argue on it's name or origin, but this will always be the case for Oriental recipes. Every country will claim that it is the inventor of this dish or that dish and names can vary across the region. Take the most common example- who invented hummus? falafels? shawarma? These kind of questions can result in never ending debates, I assure you! So it's best to avoid them and just focus on enjoying the delicious food instead- best advice I can give :)
I used a cake mould- but note that this is not the common way to make basboussa.

Back to basboussa- this is maybe one of the most loved desserts in Egypt, and the best versions I have ever tried are the ones made in Egypt. The only thing missing would be a big warning sign on it as it's terribly addictive. I mean, ridiculously addictive. Something to do with it's buttery yet crumbly texture and it's uber-sweetness, and that each bite literally melts in your mouth like an icecube on a hot pan and yet even after a second, third, dare I say fourth serving, you still feel like you haven't eaten anything! Dangerous stuff I tell you!
Basboussa has a very crumbly texture, but that is part of it's charm!
On the upside however, it is one of the easiest sweets to make- it seriously takes five minutes to prepare. FIVE MINUTES! All you need is fine semolina, butter, milk, shredded coconut, and sugar! Five key ingredients, five delicious minutes. Need I say more?

Recipe for Basboussa
(note that there are many different versions of this recipe and each country has it's own name for this dessert. The version below is a common Egyptian recipe)

200gr fine semolina
100gr sugar
100gr grated coconut
150gr milk
100gr butter
Almonds (optional, for decoration. It is important however that they be either blanched full almonds or slivered blanched almonds)

For the syrup:
2 cups water + 2 cups sugar + 1 tablespoon orange blossom water
*In this case, a cup = a drinking cup (approx 300-400ml in size). Just fill up the cups with the ingredients, no need to weigh or use proper measuring cups for the syrup.

Preheat oven to 200C. Melt the milk and butter together. In a bowl, mix the fine semolina, sugar and grated coconut. Then add the milk and butter on the dry ingredients- mix well. Pour mixture into a baking tray, top off with almonds, and bake for 30 minutes. Check to see if ready- it should form a beautiful golden crust. If necessary, extend baking time for another 10 minutes.
While the basboussa is in the oven, prepare the syrup by boiling the water and sugar together on high heat. When it reaches it starts bubbling, let it continue boiling for 5-10 minutes so that it becomes a thick syrup. At the end, add the orange blossom water. Set aside.
Once the basboussa is baked and out of the oven, immediately pour the syrup gently and slowly over. Let cool for at least an hour- when it's hot it will be too difficult to slice up.

Jun 27, 2010


A while back when I wrote up my honey gelato recipe, I mentionned that I had an issue with eggs in desserts and that, one day, I would eventually explain the reason for that.  Here is the situation: I don't mind the use of eggs in desserts (what else would justify all the delicious cakes I've been eating my whole life?) as long as I can't taste an ''eggy taste'' in it. I don't know how to describe what an ''eggy taste'' is, but I know that if I sense it in a dessert, then I can't have another bite. It's not an allergy to eggs (because I do eat foods that contain them) but it's a strong dislike to the taste of eggs. I guess that's the best way to explain it! That would also explain why I haven't had an omelette, boiled or poached egg or whatever-egg in the last, hmmm, 10 years more or less. Sounds crazy? Maybe. But everyone has a different reaction to tastes and foods, and I thought it would be good to get this egg confession off my chest once and for all :)
Anyway, now with that cleared out... my dilemna was how do I continue enjoying one of my favourite desserts ever- the eggy tiramisu? With all the respect I have to Italian culinary traditions, most of the time I end up making tiramisu without eggs. I had read recipes that called for gelatine, but I don't like using gelatine unless it's absolutely necessary.

Basically, my eggless tiramisu keeps all the espresso, savoiardi, marsala and cocoa goodness, but keeps out the zabaglione- which is instead simply prepared by mixing whipped cream, mascarpone, sugar and marsala.
I admit, I have fooled people with this eggless tiramisu before. People still find it delicious and there are usually requests for second servings. It's not till only after all is eaten and done that I admit it's eggless and no one has hated me for that yet :)

Recipe for Eggless Tiramisu:

500ml liquid cream (20% fat minimum), cold and refrigerated
250gr mascarpone, at room temperature
100gr sugar
100ml Marsala
25-30 savoiardi (or ladyfingers)

For the coffee dip:
400 ml espresso coffee + 4 teaspoons sugar
(this might make more then what you end up using, but it's better to have more then too little)

Whip the cream until it has a thick consistency. If possible, try to whisk it in a cold bowl that has been placed in the freezer for a couple of hours prior to usage. Then add the mascarpone and sugar, whisk gently- you just want it to make sure the ingredients are well mixed. Gradually add the marsala, mix gently and briefly. Place mixture in fridge.
Line up half of the savoiardi onto the base of your container, pour over the coffee dip (or you can dip the savoiardi into the coffee before placing into container- as you prefer). Spread a layer of the cream mixture, repeat procedure with a second layer of savoiardi and cream mixture. Sprinkle with cocoa and refrigerate for at least 5 hours.

Jun 24, 2010


The sun is out, the flowers are in bloom, and absolutely gorgeous cherries are for sale (so of course I did not come back empty handed!) what a perfect day you may say! *Sigh* Why can't life always be that simple?

I was of course going to enjoy some of the cherries I brought back home on their own, scrumptiously raw and sweet, but I also felt like using them in some muffins. I have been in fruity muffin moods lately...maybe because the thought of waking up to a cup of coffee and a muffin studded with some summer fruits was something I didn't want to just be dreaming about at night- but waking up to it too.

But... cherry muffins? That sounded so...blah...bland? So I thought that maybe adding a touch of mahlepi to the batter could spark some muffin magic and make it intensely cherrylicious. In effect, mahlepi is the seed kernel of a sour cherry variety. In our family, we have used ground mahlepi in many traditional bread and cookie recipes and it always adds a unique flavour... it is said that it has the taste of bitter almond and cherry...but to me it is a  truly mysterious taste- in a good way of course- and in all honesty, I really wouldn't know how to describe it. So my only suggestion is, if you aren't familiar with mahlepi, you'll never know what you're missing out on unless you give it a try!

This is what ground mahlepi looks like (below). The funny thing about mahlepi is that it doesn't really smell like anything, unlike other spices, but a small teaspoon of this just bursts with fragrance once baked!
And it would come to form a lovely duet with some cherries:
Yes, my muffin paper moulds did not fit...but sometimes you have to work with what you have! What I really wanted to show actually was the sprinkle of brown sugar on the muffin batters before popping them into the oven.
While they baked, I came accross a beautiful zebra-ish rose in the garden...thought I would share :)
And there they were, cherry mahlepi muffins -for real- so I no longer have to dream about coffee and fruity muffins for breakfast!

Recipe for Cherry - Mahelpi muffins:
makes 6 large muffins or 12 small muffins

100gr butter, softened
100gr brown sugar + some for sprinkling at the end
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 tablespoon rosewater
130gr flour
1.5 teaspoons ground mahlepi
1 teaspoon baking powder
Pinch of salt
Cherries, unpitted, diced

Preheat oven to 180C. In a bowl, mix the eggs, butter, sugar, vanilla and rosewater. Then add the flour, mahlepi, baking powder and salt. Mix well until batter is smooth. Add the diced cherries and mix the batter gently with a wooden spoon or spatula. Fill up muffin moulds up 3/4 full, sprinkle some brown sugar on top and bake for 20 minutes at 180C. Once baked, let cool and enjoy

Jun 23, 2010


I found myself in a situation that I know quite well and that definately was not a first for me- being stuck with leftovers. Especially leftovers that do not have a very long shelf life. This time around it happened to be mushrooms (champignons de Paris to be precise) and mint, and I absolutely had to use them up- I would feel guilty throwing them out! Fortunately, mushrooms and mint are lovely ingredients but I was lacking inspiration...when miraculously - or you was it destiny!- my mother gave me a ring and proposed that I match it up with cabillaud (cod) or go with a vegeterian pasta dish. Then I thought to myself...but why do either / or? Why not do both? Besides, now that mother mentioned it, I do indeed remember very well having tasted her suggestions in the past- she had made these before and they were delicious.
What was especially appealing was the idea of matching up cabillaud with a ton of fresh mint, mushrooms, lemon, garlic...amongst other things, as it really gives a lovely flavour boost to the fish. I admit, cabillaud is not my preferred type of fish as I tend to find it quite bland in taste. So it needs a very flavourful cookup in my opinion.

This is very quick and easy to make. You just need to pan sear the cabillaud with some olive oil, lots of lemon and garlic, break it into little pieces and then throw on top sliced mushrooms and chopped mint leaves. And of course, season with salt!

For a vegeterian option, this is absolutely delicious. A mixture of pasta, mushrooms, mint, olive oil, some garlic, feta and toasted pinenuts.

Recipe for the cabillaud (cod) with mushrooms & mint:
Cabillaud filets- no bones, no skin
Olive oil
Garlic, chopped
Mushrooms, sliced
Mint leaves, chopped
Lemon, juice of

Heat some olive oil and garlic in a skillet pan. Sprinkle cabillaud filet with salt and transfer to skillet. Cook on each side for 2-3 minutes, then break into small pieces with a wooden spoon. Add the mushrooms, lots of lemon juice and mix everything on high heat- allow any liquids to evaporate. Add the mint leaves at the very end, mix well one last time and season if necessary.

Recipe for pasta with mushrooms & mint:
Pasta, already boiled (preferably penne or a short pasta)
Olive oil
Garlic, chopped
Mushrooms, sliced
Mint leaves, chopped
Feta cheese, crumbled
Pinenuts, toasted
Salt & Pepper

In a deep pan, heat the olive oil with the garlic, then throw in the pasta. When you boil the pasta, try to boil it 1-2 minutes less then recommended time as it will continue to ''cook'' in the next steps. Add the mushrooms and mint, season and mix well. When serving, top off with some crumbled feta cheese and toasted pinenuts.

Jun 20, 2010


Maybe there is something intimidating about the thought of homemade pizza, but it really isnt that difficult. Of course, in an ideal dream-kitchen we would all have a wood-fired oven and dough rolling skills of a pizzaiolo, but if that's not the case, making it from scratch without the fancy accessories can work out just as well.
In my opinion, you really need two things. Firstly, you need to find a great base pizza dough recipe- and never lose it! I have mine, and because sharing, is caring you'll find it at the end of this post. Secondly, you need superb quality ingredients to dress up a wonderful dough. Coupled with some creativity, just unleash your imagination...let your tastebuds guide you into choice of toppings, cheeses, herbs, etc. Here is what I went for:

First off, the pizza dough...
Option 1: garlic rubbed dough, mozzarella, mushrooms, dash of black pepper. I love mushrooms on my pizza- the more, the better!
Option 2: a classic margarita

Ten minutes later, my mushroom pizza was ready and I topped on a mixture of arugula and chopped fresh basil
I think this deserves another shot :)
And here is the margarita, the edible incarnation of the expression ''simplicity at it's best'' !

Recipe for basic pizza dough - makes 2 large pizzas

400gr flour
15gm dried yeast + 40ml warm water
200ml water + 1 teaspoon salt
Olive oil for brushing

Mix the dried yeast & warm water in a cup, leave for 15 minutes until frothy.
Prepare a bowl with the flour. Form a well in the center and add the yeast mixture. Mix, then add the 200ml water with the salt. Knead dough for 10 minutes. Form two balls, leave dough to rise in a container that has been brushed with olive oil. I usually leave my dough to rise for at least 5 hours, sometimes I will leave it overnight.
Preheat oven to 220C. Knead the dough again for 5 mins, roll out thinly on a baking tray, add your choice of toppings and bake for 8-10 minutes until golden and crisp.

Jun 18, 2010


Quick update- I've just come back from a very spontaneous session in the sticking to homemade gelato goodness, can I just say that if you ever venture down chocolate lane, please add some orange blossom water AND cardamom. It has to be both together, preferably! What wonders it will do to your chocolate gelato (or ice cream, whatever you decide to do!) It will provide a lovely tingle to your tastebuds, the orange blossom water with the cardamom make a beautiful symphony with the chocolate.

I thought this was news worth sharing- give this flavour combination a try next time!

Recipe for chocolate gelato with orange blossom water & cardamom:

300ml milk
300ml liquid cream
100gr brown sugar
1 tablespoon orange blossom water
1 teaspoon ground cardamom
20gr unsweetened cocoa
100gr 70% chocolate, chopped
300ml cold milk + 1 tablespoon cornstarch

In a pot, heat 300ml milk with the cream, sugar, orange blossom water and ground cardamom in a pot. Then add the cocoa and baking chocolate, stir and make sure the chocolate has fully melted into the mixture. Just make sure that during this process, the milk and cream doesn't burn. In a cup, mix the cornstarch with 300ml of cold milk- make sure the cornstarch has dissolved completely, then add to the pot and keep mix over heat for two minutes. Remove from heat, chill in fridge for at least two hours before transfering to your ice cream machine. Follow manufacturer's instructions, and enjoy either immediately or place mixture in freezer for a couple of hours.


Mmm gelato. The ultimate holiday food. I dont know about you, but gelato is pretty much all I eat when I'm on holidays. It just makes me happy, and I feel adventurous wanting to try the gazillion flavours that are usually presented at a gelateria. Even the most humble gelateria I've come across has had at least 10 to 15 offerings. I'll usually have two flavours - in a cup please (sorry, cones are not for me!). Sometimes I'll have three flavours. And if calories weren't an issue and I could eat all I wanted without having to worry about not fitting into my jeans, then yes, I would had probably even gone for a cup containing six different scoops. With some whipped cream and sprinkles on top. That's how much I love gelato.

Anyway, strange that I had never tried making it at home. Plus, my ice cream machine even has a gelato function- it churns much slower then on ice cream mode. Slow churning means less air which explains the dense creamy texture gelato has.

What I also loved about making gelato is that it is eggless. One day I will tell you why I prefer sweets that are eggless... it's a long story so I will save it for another time :)

The only issue at hand now was what flavour should I try? The answer seemed evident- I wanted to make honey gelato. I had once made homemade honey ice cream, and I still remember how fantastic the taste was. It was pure bliss, and nothing compared to commercial honey ice cream. There are some flavours that just taste so much more better at home- for instance pistachio is a good example in my opinion. Well the same applies for honey. Homemade versus commercially made is like night and day. You cannot even compare. Do you know what I mean? Not only the taste is different, but the colour too. Honey ice cream at home is white- not some light brown colour. You get that naturalness with pistachio too- none of that radioactive fluorescent green colour at home!

However at the last minute I threw in some bits of speculoos...although to be honest with you, this addition gave a bit of a wintery feel and darker colour to the end result. But it was good nonetheless!

Wanna try some?

Recipe for honey gelato:

300ml milk
300ml liquid cream
100gr honey
300ml cold milk + 1 tablespoon cornstarch

In a pot, heat 300ml milk with the cream and honey in a pot. In a cup, mix the cornstarch with 300ml of cold milk- make sure the cornstarch has dissolved completely, then add to the pot and keep mix over heat for two minutes. Remove from heat, chill in fridge for at least two hours before transfering to your ice cream machine. Follow manufacturer's instructions, and enjoy either immediately or place mixture in freezer for a couple of hours. You can optionally add chopped nuts or cookies of your choice for some crunch when transfering cooled mixture to your ice cream machine.

Jun 16, 2010


I love fresh goat cheese- I love it's taste and texture and that it is like a blank slate to which you can add a variety of ingredients especially if you're looking to enjoy something quick to make and full of taste.
When I opened the fridge the other day, heard the birds chirping outside, and felt the sunrays shining through the kitchen windows (wow, does this all sound way too perfect or what?) , I knew that the goat cheese on that refrigerator shelf needed a bit of a revamp. Plain goat cheese was just not an option on a lovely sunny day!
What it needed was a bit of a crunch, something sweet, and it definately could make use of some fresh herbs.
Walnuts & dried apricots are just perfect with goat cheese... dont forget a dash of black pepper too
Add some fresh chopped mint leaves on that too
Mix everything and get ready to spread on a delicious toasted slice of bread
The other option with fresh goat cheese is to let it marinate in some olive oil combined with some ingredients of your choice. This will taste delicious if you leave it set for 24 - 48 hours. Here I used the same ingredients: walnuts, dried apricots and black pepper but replaced the mint with fresh basil leaves.
What are your favourite flavour pairings with fresh goat cheese?