Seabream in “Crazy Water”Orata all’acqua Pazza

Preparation time: 10 minutes
Cooking time: 25 minutes

You’ve got to love this recipe – easy, quick, simple and clean taste – no fussing around.

My husband and I, we are seafood lovers. Lately we are also into Italian cooking. We went to Venice in 2014 and ate plenty of seafood. Italian cooking is so simplistic, focusing on the good quality produce and allowing the produce to shine through.

I saw a video of this Seabream in Crazy Water cooked by Gennaro Contaldo and wondered what the ‘Crazy Water’ is all about. It is just water…but full of flavours from the simple ingredients you normally store at home. Not surprisingly, Pesce/Orata all’Acqua Pazza (Pesce is fish, and Orata is Seabream in Italian language) is a popular dish.

Pesce all'Acqua Pazza

Seabream in ‘Crazy Water’

Ingredients:

4 tablespoon of olive oil
2 whole seabream (or seabass)
2 garlic cloves, finely sliced
1 red chilli, finely chopped
400g small tomatoes, halved
100ml water, approximately
Small handful of flat leaf parsley

Serves 2

Method:

  1. Start by poaching the pears. Poach the pears by placing the sugar and spices in a saucepan with 200ml of water and set over a medium heat.
  2. Heat the oil in a large frying pan. Carefully slip the fish into the oil and cook for 4-5 minutes until starting to brown. Season with salt.
  3. Flip over and cook for another 4-5 minutes on this side.
  4. Scatter the garlic and chilli around the fish and let is sizzle for about 1 minute.
  5. Then scatter over the tomatoes. Pour the water and let it bubble for 1 minute.
  6. Scatter the parsley on top, put the lid on and let the fish simmer for 15 minutes or until the fish is cooked. Check the seasoning and adjust accordingly. Adjust the water to your liking as – I added more water as I wanted to serve this dish with bread.

Serve the fish on a plate with the sauce/broth with warm ciabatta bread on the side to soak all the juicy sweet spicy broth.

Note:
– Use super-ripe tomatoes in this Italian fish recipe to add extra sweetness to the spicy broth

Spiced Pear & Ginger Cheesecake

Preparation time: 30 minutes
Cooking time: 45 minutes

An interesting take to cheesecake as it offers seasonal flavours – Christmas spices paired with pears- an great combo.

This Spiced Pear and Ginger Baked Cheesecake is from Rachel Allen.

Spiced Pear & Ginger Cheesecake

Spiced Pear & Ginger Baked Cheesecake


Ingredients:

butter, for greasing
450g cream cheese
150g caster sugar
4 eggs, beaten

For the poached pears
50g caster sugar
1 cinnamon stick
1 star anise
3 whole cloves
4 pears, peeled, quartered and cored

For the biscuit base
175g gingernut biscuits
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon mixed spice
75g melted butter

Serves 8 to 10

Method:

  1. Start by poaching the pears. Poach the pears by placing the sugar and spices in a saucepan with 200ml of water and set over a medium heat.
  2. Heat the syrup, stirring until the sugar has dissolved, then raise the heat and bring to the boil. Reduce the heat to a simmer, then add the pears and cover with a disc of baking parchment.
  3. Simmer for 10 minutes or until the pears have softened, then remove from the syrup and place on a plate to cool. Reserve the poaching syrup.
  4. Preheat the oven to 180C/160C fan/gas 4. Butter the sides and base of a 23cm diameter spring-form cake tin with 6cm sides, making sure the base is upside down, so there’s no lip and the cake can slide off easily when cooked.
  5. Prepare the biscuit base. Place the biscuits, ground singer and mixed spice in a food processor and whiz for a few minutes until the mixture resembles coarse breadcrumbs. Add the melted butter and whiz again just until well mixed.
  6. Tip the mixture into the prepared cake tin, spreading it out evenly to cover the bottom of the tin and pressing it down firmly.
  7. For the cheesecake topping, pour the pear-poaching syrup into a bowl, using a sieve to catch the whole spices. Keep the whole spices. You can use it as decoration for the cheesecake.
  8. Add the cream cheese, sugar and eggs and whisk together until well mixed and smooth.
  9. Arrange the pears in a single layer on the biscuit base. Next pour over the cream-cheese mixture. Bake for about 40–45 minutes or just until golden on top. The cheesecake will be slightly cracked on top and should wobble a little in the middle when you gently shake the tin.
  10. Remove from the oven and allow to cool in the tin, and then place it in the fridge and leave to set for 2 hours.

Place the whole spices on top of the cheesecake as decoration.

Spiced Pear & Ginger Cheesecake

‘Christmas’ Cheesecake

Nigella Lawson’s Clementine Cake

Preparation time: 2 hours
Cooking time: 40 minutes

Late December last year I was doing some homework on desserts to bake for Christmas and New Year meals. I wanted a bit of a change from gingerbread. I saw Clementine cake being baked in one of the TV programmes and shortlisted the cake for baking. The cake looked simple to bake, few ingredients required and it’s Christmassy. On top of that, I was excited to try a flourless cake.

I looked around for Clementine cake recipes on the net and decided to try this recipe from Nigella Lawson which I followed to the letter.

It is a fairly quick and easy cake to bake. The clementines require a bit of prepping at the beginning but once that bit is done, it’s quick and easy. I’ve made this several times now and it went down well every time.

Nigella Lawson's Clementine Cake

Flourless Clementine Cake


Ingredients:

375 grams clementines (approx. 3 medium-sized ones)
6 large eggs
225 grams white sugar
250 grams ground almonds
1 teaspoon baking powder

Serves 8 to 10

Method:

  1. Put the clementines in a pan with some cold water, bring to the boil and cook for 2 hours.
  2. Drain and, when cool, cut each clementine in half and remove the pips. Dump the clementines – skins, pith, fruit and all – and give a quick blitz in a food processor.
  3. Beat the eggs by hand/hand mixer adding the sugar, ground almonds and baking powder, mixing well, then finally adding the pulped clementines.
  4. Pour the cake mixture into the prepared tin and bake for 40 minutes, when a skewer will come out clean.
  5. Remove from the oven and leave to cool, on a rack, but in the tin. When the cake is cold, you can take it out of the tin.

The clementine cake is best eaten a day after it’s made, but if you can’t resist you can eat it any time. Serve with a dollop of crème fraîche and a cup of tea.

Note:
– This cake can be gluten free by omitting the baking powder or use gluten free baking powder.

Steak Au Poivre (Pepper Steak)

Preparation time: 10 minutes
Cooking time:  25 minutes

A simple, quick and delicious meal to dish up on week days. It takes a bit of multi-tasking though :).

Steak Au Poivre (Pepper Steak)

Steak Au Poivre (Pepper Steak) with creamy mashed potatoes and steamed vegetables

Ingredients:

2 sirloin steaks ~ 400g
1 tablespoon whole black peppercorn
Salt
Olive oil

Black pepper sauce:
50ml cream (single/double)
Ground black pepper
100ml beef stock
½ teaspoon dijon mustard
Knob of butter

Mashed potatoes:
2 red skin potatoes ~ 400g
A handful of cheddar cheese
A pinch of ground black pepper
A pinch of nutmeg
50ml milk
Knob of butter
Serves 2

Method:

  1. Grind the black peppercorn coarsely using mortar and pestle or spice grinder. Sieve the peppercorn to separate the course and finely ground black pepper. Season the steaks with salt and course peppercorn on both sides and set aside while preparing mash potato.
  2. Boil the potatoes in salted water until soft and tender. This should take 10 to 15 minutes. Drain the water and put the potatoes back in the pan. Add finely ground black pepper, nutmeg, butter, cheese and milk. Using the back of wooden spoon or a masher, mash the potatoes until it reaches the consistency of your liking.
  3. Heat a frying pan on high heat. Once the pan starts to smoke, add olive oil to the pan. Fry the steaks on high heat for 3 minutes on each side. Once done, keep the warm while you prepare the peppercorn sauce.
  4. Using the same frying pan, add the beef stock, Dijon mustard, ground black peppercorn and cream. Let it simmer for 3 to 5 minutes. Add a knob of butter towards the end to give the smooth, shiny look.

Serve the steak with creamy mashed potatoes, steamed vegetables (carrots and broccoli) and a bit of black peppercorn sauce on the side.

Ma Po Tofu

Preparation time: 20 minutes
Cooking time:  20 minutes

Ma Po Tofu (Mápó dòufu, or mápó tòfu)is one of our favourite takeaway meals from our local Chinese takeaway as a vegetarian option. I wanted to give it a trial so I started looking for recipes on the net. As usual, there are many versions of this dish and to my surprise; this dish is traditionally not a vegetarian dish.  Ma Po Tofu includes beef (or pork) but delicious enough without the addition of meat in this dish.

Szechuan Ma Po Tofu with Beef

Szechuan Ma Po Tofu

Here is my attempt at Ma Po Tofu adapted from rasamalaysia website. Check out the full version of the recipe here:

http://rasamalaysia.com/recipe-ma-po-tofu/2/

Ingredients:

1 block silken tofu ~ 350g
50 g minced beef
3 tablespoons chilli bean paste
3 teaspoons chili powder
3 tablespoons cooking oil
1 tablespoon Sichuan/Szechuan peppercorns (roasted and ground to powder)
1 tablespoon light soy sauce
1 teaspoon fermented black beans (rinsed and pounded)
2 stalks spring onion (chopped into 1 or 2-inch length)
2 gloves garlic (minced)
1/2 cup water
Salt to taste

Serves 4

Method:

  1. Cut the tofu into small pieces and set aside. Be careful not to break the tofu as they are very soft.
  2. Heat the oil in a wok on medium heat. Add the minced garlic, minced beef and chilli bean paste. Stir fry for a minute or two.
  3. Add chili powder, soy sauce and pounded fermented black beans. Stir fry for another 2 minutes.
  4. Add the tofu and water. Stir gently to mix the tofu well with the sauce. Cover the wok, reduce the heat and let it simmer for 3-5 minutes until the sauce thickens.
  5. Sprinkle the ground Sichuan peppercorn and chopped spring onion. Give it a final stir and dish out. Eat while it is hot.

MaPo Tofu is delicious served with fried vermicelli, egg fried rice or boiled basmati rice.

Note:
– If you want to make this dish a vegetarian dish, simply omit the meat.

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