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Pumpkin Cake

What banana bread is to winter, pumpkin cake is to fall. Leaving SAT analogies aside, this is simply the quintessential fall cake to make. As the autumn leaves turn a beautiful range of orange-brown colors and people start buying pumpkins for Halloween, the time has come to switch from the summer peach, pear and plum desserts and introduce pumpkin into one’s menu. Pumpkins are native of North America and are rich in vitamins, minerals and fiber. As its orange color suggests, pumpkin is a good source of vitamin A and its precursor beta-carotene, which is necessary for vision, skin repair and other important physiological functions. In addition, consuming pumpkin may lower one’s cholesterol and be an excellent dietary option for people with diabetes. The seeds of pumpkin as well as the oil extracted from the seeds might have additional health benefits, such as reducing the risk of cancer and prostate disease, and are also known to have antimicrobial properties.

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 cups (200g) flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon of salt
  • 1 cup (200 g) sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 cup (240 ml) pumpkin purée*
  • 1/2 cup (120 ml) olive oil
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 1/4 cup water*
  • 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves

Preheat oven to 350°F/180°C. Sift together the flour, salt, sugar, and baking soda.

Mix the pumpkin, oil, eggs, 1/4 cup of water, and spices together, then combine with the dry ingredients, but do not overmix.

Pour into a buttered 9x5x3 inch loaf pan (23x13x7 cm) or 9-inch (23-cm) round pan. Bake around 30 minutes or until a wooden toothpick poked in the very center of the loaf comes out clean. Turn out of the pan and let cool on a rack.

* To make pumpkin purée, cut a pumpkin in half, scoop out the seeds, lie face down on a baking sheet. Bake at 350°F/180°C until soft, about 45 min-1h. Cool, scoop out the flesh. You can also boil pumpkin cut into several pieces, peel and then mash. Baking will bring out its flavor more and the purée will be less watery. If boiling the pumpkin, skip the addition of water step above.

Recipe adapted from here.

Pad See Ew

Every time I’ve been to a Thai restaurant, I ended up ordering Pad Thai. Every time I go to a Thai restaurant, I tell myself I will order something other than Pad Thai and then again, it happens. The problem was that I could make Thai Curry and its various derivative dishes but I could never create that Pad Thai flavor you got at a restaurant. Until I found a really great and simple recipe online demonstrated in a live video by a Thai cook at …a British restaurant. Needless to say, the recipe was Westernized. Since I discovered that recipe and successfully obtained the long-sought after Pad Thai taste – a combination of all kinds of sweet, salty, sour, spicy and other flavors – I have made Pad Thai several times. In fact it was about time to try a different recipe. That’s how I drifted to the less complicated Pad See Ew, another stir-fry noodle dish requiring fewer ingredients and less time. Pad See it for Ewrselves.

Ingredients: 

  • 250g flat and wide rice noodles
  • 1/2 kg ground pork, beef or mix of two (or calamari)
  • 3 cups Chinese broccoli
  • 1 large egg
  • 2 tablespoons sweet dark soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons oyster sauce
  • 2 teaspoons thin soy sauce
  • 2 teaspoons sugar (palm or regular granulated)
  • 2 teaspoons rice vinegar
  • 2 cloves garlic (pressed)

Prepare in advance:

  1. Noodles – method 1) soak dry noodles for 20 min in cold water until pliable but not too soft; method 2) blanch noodles for 3-5 min in boiling water until softened but not cooked.
  2. Meat – in a pan with some oil, cook ground meat until fully done and ready to use. (I used seafood instead.)
  3. Vegetable – chop Chinese broccoli or regular broccoli into large chunks and blanch or cook in a pan separately for 2-5 min or until semi-soft.
  4. Sauce – mix sweet dark soy sauce, oyster sauce, thin soy sauce, sugar, vinegar and garlic and set aside for stir-fry.

Heat two tablespoons of vegetable or sesame oil in a wok or any deep large pan. Crack egg and scramble quickly. Add noodles, stir with egg for 2 min, add sauce, stir some more. Turn heat to the maximum. Quickly add meat, stir again and cook until noodles begin to form slightly burnt edges. Stir in chopped, semi-cooked vegetable chunks, stir fry for only a few more minutes and serve piled up on a large plate. If using seafood, add last on top of noodles and vegetables before serving.

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Some notes for the beginners:
For more info on different types of rice noodles and cooking methods, visit this site:
For more Thai dishes, visit this site showing videos of Thai food street vendors: http://importfood.com/vendor_video/thai_street_vendor_videos.html
For examples of Pad See Ew recipes, visit these sites:
For a dramatic video of Pad See Ew noodles set on fire, scroll down this site:

Apple Walnut Caramel Cake

This recipe is very similar to my pear ginger caramel cake except that there’s nothing exotic about it. On the contrary, it is a very basic, down-to-earth, standard or traditional to various cultures, if you will, type of cake. The French have their tart tatin, the Russians make a traditional apple cake called sharlotka, in the US we have the apple pie, South or North, that is made around Thanksgiving and I’m sure in the Northern countries in Europe they probably make some apple coffee cake. In the Bavarian province of Germany, Apfelkuchen is the Kuchen to eat. And so on..

Whatever cultural variation you opt for, the general recommendation is to use tart and rather hard apples. The amount, slicing shape and patterns to arrange the apples in the cake can vary and the use of caramel is entirely up to you. In the recipe I am offering below, there are two layers of batter separated by a second layer of apples-cinnamon-walnuts. However, it is perfectly alright to just have the bottom layer on the pan and one layer of batter on top, in a tart-tatin style. Let us convince ourselves of the simplicity of this cake recipe now.

Ingredients:

Batter:

  • 5 eggs
  • 150 ml oil
  • 330 g flour
  • 300 g sugar
  • 10 g baking powder

Caramel:

  • 100 g sugar
  • 40 g butter

Filling:

  • 400 g apples
  • 150 g walnuts
  • 2 tsp cinnamon

In a pan, spread evenly the 100 g sugar and bake at 350F/180C until medium brown. Remove from oven and let cool. Grate or cut the butter in thin slices and place over caramel pan bottom. Arrange sliced apples in a circular pattern over, sprinkle 1 tsp cinnamon, half of the chopped walnuts and pour over half of the batter. To make batter, simply mix all the ingredients.

Repeat layer of apples, cinnamon and walnuts over the first batter layer and top with the second half/remaining batter. (I usually use slightly less than half for the first layer just to be sure to have enough batter to cover the second layer of apples/walnuts.

Bake at 350F/180C until toothpick inserted in center of cake comes out clean, let cool and turn upside-down on a cake plate. If the cake is sliced while still warm, it can be served with vanilla ice cream. Otherwise, serve completely cooled. Ideal for a potluck party or a weekend breakfast.

 

Broccoli Cheddar Quiche

Broccoli Cheddar Quiche is a popular dish in the United States and England. It could be served for breakfast but of course, it makes a quick and easy dinner dish as well. You can also make it for a weekend brunch and enjoy it in itself or as part of a bigger buffet or potluck selection. It contains protein, calcium, fiber and antioxidants and despite the fact that it is a vegetarian dish, it can taste quite rich and heavy.

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Ingredients:

  • 1 pie shell
  • 1 broccoli head
  • 3 eggs
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 1-2 cup cheddar cheese
  • 1 tbsp flour
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper
  • dash of nutmeg

Preheat oven to 350F/180C. Blanch or quickly boil broccoli cut in flowerets and set aside to cool. In a bowl, mix together the eggs, milk, heavy cream, flour, salt, pepper and nutmeg.

Roll out store-bought or home-made pie dough in a pie shell and arrange broccoli flowerets on the bottom. Sprinkle cheddar cheese over. Pour filling mixture on top and bake for 40-50 minutes or until set in center. Let cool 5 min and serve cut in slices.

A note on the ingredients: The amount of eggs, milk and cheese in the filling can be varied depending on taste and consistency preference. Some people prefer their quiche more eggy, others more cheesy. For a lighter version, you can omit the heavy cream and add only milk thickening it with an extra tablespoon of flour. Also, herbs can be experimented with, as for example, adding fresh parsley or dill.

The prettier version of Pear Pecan Tart

This is a re-post of the previous Pear Pecan Tart recipe, with the pears arranged in a visible pattern on top. In the other post, the pears were sprinkled with chopped pecans, which ruined the intended sun-like pattern of the fruit. This time, I decided to grind the pecans and incorporate them into the batter of the tart filling. The main difference was that the filling was firmer and tasted more nutty. Walnuts can be used as an equally successful substitute. If you have both types of nuts, you can vary the filling batter by putting half of each. The consistency should be firm in either case.

Ingredients:

  • 4-5 pear halves (preferably from a can)
  • 1 pie crust
  • 7 tbsp sugar
  • 2 tbsp flour
  • 1 cup of ground pecans or walnuts or 1/2 cup of each nut type
  • 125g butter
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 1 tbsp brandy (optional)
  • 2 tbsp brown sugar

Preheat oven to 350F/200C. Spread pie crust in a 9-inch tart pan.

Mix sugar, flour and ground pecans or walnuts in food processor. Add butter in small chunks and blend until smooth. Add eggs and cream (and brandy (pear-flavored, ideally), if desired). Blend until smooth.

Pour filling into crust. Cut pear halves in thin slices and arrange on top of the filling in the desired pattern. Bake for 30 mins or until golden brown and semi-firm in the center, let cool and serve cut in wedges.

Pear Pecan Tart

Pecan pie as everyone knows is native to the South of the US and pear tart with almond meal filling is a popular French dessert. This pear pecan tart is a fusion of the two cultures. Pear Pecan Tart uses pecans like the pecan pie but is not as sweet and gooey. It retains most of the ingredients of the French pear tart.

Ingredients:

  • 4-5 pear halves (preferably from a can)
  • 1 pie crust
  • 7 tbsp sugar
  • 2 tbsp flour
  • 1/2 cup almond meal or marzipan
  • 125g butter
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 1 tbsp brandy (optional)
  • 1/2-1 cup pecans (chopped)
  • 2 tbsp brown sugar

Preheat oven to 350F/200C. Spread pie crust in a 9-inch tart pan.

Mix sugar, flour and almond meal or marzipan in food processor. Add butter in small chunks and blend until smooth. Add eggs and cream (and brandy (pear-flavored, ideally), if desired). Blend until smooth.

Pour filling into crust. Cut pear halves in thin slices and arrange on top of the filling in the desired pattern. Bake for 30 mins or until golden brown and semi-firm in the center, let cool and serve cut in wedges.

  

  

  

  

Greek Feta Wraps

Making Feta Salad Wraps is a great lunch option for a sunny weekend. If you want to make something easy, eat quickly and go out as soon as possible to enjoy the day, then you should try this wrap! Also, it is a great light dinner to make for friends or family and sit out in your garden and enjoy it with a refreshing drink. In this post, I am pairing the Greek salad wrap with a Mango lassie, which is typical for Indian cuisine. There is a movement out there called Mediterrasian that pairs Mediterranean and Asian cuisine, as the name implies, but this meal is a deviation so I’m calling it Mediterrindian. Regardless of the name, the strong flavor of the feta cheese and pungent onion present in the salad filling of the wrap will go well with the sweet and tropical flavor of the mango lassie. The yogurt in the lassie drink is also an obvious neutralizer to the whole endeavor so plunge in and enjoy!

Ingredients:

Greek Wraps:

  • 1 salad head (small to medium)
  • 1 cucumber
  • 1 onion
  • 3 medium tomatoes
  • 1 cup of feta cheese
  • 1 avocado
  • 1 cup olives
  • 1 spring onion
  • 1/2 cup parseley
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • 1 garlic clove
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/8 tsp black pepper
  • 5 tortillas

Chop all the above ingredients in bite-size pieces or cubes. Combine all vegetables and feta. Make dressing by mixing oil, vinegar, minced garlic and salt and pepper. Toss over salad ingredients and mix well. Let stand for 10-20 minutes or until volume has subsided.

              

Divide Greek salad among the tortillas. Fold either one or both ends of tortilla over filling and then roll up. Slice in two halves and serve with cold lassie (recipe below) or any other refreshing drink.

            

Mango Lassie:

  • 1 ripe mango
  • 2 tbsp honey
  • 2 tbsp sugar
  • 3 cups yogurt
  • 5 cardamon seeds
  • ice cubes (optional)

        

Peel and chop mango. Place in a blender, put honey on top, pour yogurt in, and blend until smooth. Hull cardamon seeds or use cardamon powder if you have some and stir. Add sugar if not sweet enough. If desired, place a few ice cubes in glasses, pour mango lassie into glasses, and serve cold.

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