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Friday, 26 July 2013

Food of Tunisia

I am enjoying this years summer holiday sunny Tunisia.  This is not the first time I have visited North Africa - trips to Cairo, Luxor and Sharm el Shake have already introduced me to the wide range of foods from this area and the odd tummy bugs that comes with them.  My hotel is only half board but this means I get to enjoy a wide range of breakfast and dinner food items.  Being mostly buffet style I am excited that this will give me maximin opportunity to try a range of different things.  Since my hotel has WIFI I am able to sample, report back and post articles while I am here.  This is the first of who knows how many mini blog posts about the range of food I have eaten while I am here.  I will write about the food I try at the hotel, local area and when on day trips, further afield.

Early drafts of my posts my be limited with terminology - I am not sure how much time I will give to researching posts against sunbathing by the pool, but I intend to 'jazz' up my posts on return so it will just depend on if you are reading this while I am there or a few months after I get back.

I should point out that my trip overlaps with the religious holiday of Ramadan and therefor 98% of the Tunisian  population (the muslim percentage) are fasting during the day and only eating/drinking/smoking and 'all the rest' when the sun sets at night until it raises in the morning.   At first this has made me feel strange - ordering food and consuming it in front of people who are not allowed to eat themselves. But over time I soon became accustomed to their ways and it has not restricted what I am eating and doing.  It is interesting to see though, as soon as the sun sets, around 7:45pm everyone - taxis, hotel staff and general public stop what they are doing to rush off somewhere eat and drink.  I watched as the waiter serving us nipped off to sit down with the other waiters to eat or the hotel reception staff eating in the back even though there are people waiting.  It must be extremely challenging to last the whole day in this heat without eating or drinking a thing.  I might be able to manage with no food but no water would be very difficult to do.

My hope is I will be inspired to recreate some items I have sampled here when I get back home - thats the plan anyway.

So, here is mini post number 1....  the first few days.

Tuesday, 16 July 2013

Italian Chocolate Hazelnut Cake

I think hazelnuts are my favourite nut.  They are great on their own, mixed with chocolate, chopped on top of ice cream and flavoured in coffee - if you have never tried a hazelnut latte I highly recommend you do.

This cake is taken from Rachel Allen BAKE and was a recipe I intended to make a few weeks ago although the lack of hazelnuts in my local supermarket put a stop to it.  This is a relatively simple cake with regards to ingredients but it has a slightly more time consuming element to the bake.  Having to whisk both the egg yolks and whites separately and combine later  this is definitely one of those cakes that will produce more washing up than normal.

Flour free, and therefor gluten free (if you also adapt the baking powder), this cake can be eaten by anyone - assuming of course you must like nuts.  

The recipe has a footnote that suggests swapping cinnamon for chocolate.  I have decide to include both chocolate and cinnamon in my cake.  The quantity of cinnamon to chocolate is so small I am sure it wont corrupt the overall flavour.  Anyway, I often sprinkle cinnamon over my hot chocolate so I am sure this cake will taste fine.

This cake is light to eat with a delicate flavour of hazelnuts and chocolate.  Make sure you process as much as possible and double check you have not escaped pieces - you don't want to find a nut chunk.  Due to the high nut contain this cake keeps well for a few days in a airtight container.  Enjoy with coffee - maybe a hazelnut latte.

Saturday, 13 July 2013

Goat's Cheese, Red Onion and Pepper Tart

Well, so much for publishing two posts a week.  I had all intentions of posting on Tuesday but time just escaped me.  This week has been a long one - work, meetings, training courses and late nights.  It is also the week I finally upgraded my 6 year old mac to the latest 27inch iMac.  Having only just managed to transfer all my old files, music and other important data today I am now ready to just get on and start using it.

Today's post is based on a recipe I tried at a local 'posh' cafe called the Bottle Kiln in West Hallam, Derbyshire.  They are well known for their tasty, yet expensive, pies, tarts and quiches.  This recipe is loosely based on something I tried there recently and contains two of my favourite ingredients - goats cheese and red onion.

This is a light delicate tart with flavours that don't overpower each other.  The pastry contains dried thyme that adds a gentle hint without too much fragrance.  You could add fresh thyme if you have it in the garden but I feel that thyme is one of the few herbs that work well dried.  Served with a simple salad this dish is perfect for outdoor eating.   

Call it a quiche if you like, I have decided to name this a tart due to its thinner appearance.  I am not a vegetarian, I love all food, this tart is perfect for all.  

Saturday, 6 July 2013

Dutch Pear Cake

I was recently flicking through the pages of Rachel Allen's BAKE and I came across her recipe for Dutch Apple Cake.  A family favourite she says.  Unfortunately I did not have any apples so I was about to turn the page when I noticed the footnote - variation: Raspberry and Pear.  Now I didn't have any raspberries but I did have some pears so I thought I would give this recipe a go and see what it turned out like.

The batter is very liquid and foamy.  Made in a strange way to normal cakes - maybe this is the Dutch part of the cake?  After whisking the eggs and sugar you pour in the melted butter and milk.  Then fold in the flour.  I ended up with a runny airy mix and wondered if it was suppose to be like that?  Rachel seems to say it is, there was no picture in the book, so I had to take her word.

This is truly one of the lightest gentlest sponge cake I have ever made.  I was surprised how the pears floating on top sunk to the bottom during cooking.  The house filled with the gentle scent of pear and orange.  On removing from the oven I noted the shiny cracked top, dusted with sugar, and the very bubbly sponge around the edges.  Removing was easy with the over hang from the parchment paper.  Served warm this cake is lovely.  Light orange scented sponge covering perfectly baked sweet pears.  I can see how this has become a family favourite in the Allen household.  The next day this cake became less crumbly and easier to handle.  

Warm or cold, served with coffee, this is a cake I will be making again.

Tuesday, 2 July 2013

Behind the Cupboard Door (A Kitchen Tour)

I have decided to write a different type of post today, not a recipe, but a tour of my kitchen.  This is the place I spend a lot of time, obsess over and clean like mad.  My kitchen is my  tiny haven.   I would love one day to have a large space just like those celebrity cooks but for now I have to make due with this tiny, yet practical, room.

Four years ago I had the old kitchen ripped out and replaced with the closest thing I could get to my 'dream' kitchen.  A design based on space allowance and unfortunately limited  budget.  This post takes you behind the scenes, behind the cupboard doors, in the drawers and under the sink.  Full exposure.

For readers that don't know me - this is me!  For friends and family I feel you are about to get an insight in to my slightly OCD ways.

NOTE: The photos you are about to see have not been stage...yes...I am this obsessive...