Lemon Cake

Serge just came back from Dubai and got me this new Bundt® pan from Nordicware. I know a normal woman would cheer up over jewelry, a designer’s bag or a perfume but definitely not a pan! Hearing me shouting: “YESSS!! For meeee!!”. How many of you would have guessed that my gift could have been a baking pan, really? Come on!

I’m sure some of you would have thought giving a BANG! on the hubby’s head just for the thought of it hihihi… well not me! I’m a proud wife today, and I’m really happy to bake a lemon cake inside my new pan.

I love the preparation of this cake, the smell of the lemon zest is irresistible!

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup (1 stick/ 100gms) unsalted butter, at room temperature, diced
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 6 eggs
  • Zest of 4 lemons
  • 100g white chocolate, melted
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 3/4 cup full fat milk
  • 1/4 cup limoncello
  • Icing Sugar, to dust

Preparation

1. Preheat the oven to 185 degrees C. Grease and flour a 12-cup pan.

2. In a large bowl, using a hand mixer or a stand mixer, beat butter and sugar together until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Beat in eggs, one at a time. Beat in vanilla.

3. Add the lemon peel and the white chocolate. Mix until incorporated.

4. Sift flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a large bowl. Set aside.

5. In a measuring cup combine the milk and the limoncello. Add to butter mixture alternating with flour. Beat until well mixed, making sure to scrape down the bowl with a spatula.

6. Bake for 1 hour or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. 7. Remove the cake from the oven and let it cool on a wire rack for ten minutes, then remove it from the pan and let it cool completely before dusting with icing sugar.

Zucchini and Mushroom Risotto

My sister Hala, who also loves cooking and dinner parties, was telling me that Risotto is not a popular dish in Lebanon. I don’t know how true is this, but I know that I only love it when served immediately. This is one of the dishes that can’t be successfully cooked in advance, which makes it difficult to consider serving when I have guests for dinner.

It’s so easy to make a good risotto, but make sure that you choose short-grained plump rice, such as Arborio, Carnaroli or Vialone Nano.

The only way to make risotto is to stand over it until cooked. DO NOTHING else! Not really evident in my case where Axel is shoving her head between my knees to carry her and Kaia is constantly asking me to come and play with her and Polly Pockets. The hot stock is added little by little until rice is soft and creamy. This will take you around 20 – 25 minutes, for this amount of time at a hot stove, it’s really worth to use the appropriate rice.

Risotto can be combined with any vegetables you like or also seafood. The best risotto I ever had was cooked with champagne instead of wine, and used asparagus instead of zucchinis. I didn’t have any asparagus today and didn’t want to open my pricey bottle of champagne:), but I do recommend that you try it.

Zucchini and Mushroom Risotto

Ingredients

  • 2 tbsp Olive Oil
  • 1 large yellow zucchini
  • 250g fresh mushrooms sliced
  • Pinch of Sea Salt

To make the rice

  • 250g Arborio rice
  • 25g Unsalted butter
  • 1 Onion, minced
  • 1 cup white wine
  • 750ml Vegetable stock, hot (preferably home made)
  • 25g Parmesan, shaved
  • Salt and Pepper to taste

Cooking Directions

 1. In a medium saucepan, place the mushrooms and the zucchinis with olive oil and sweat until cooked. Season with salt.

2. In a separate heavy bottomed pan, heat the butter and add the onion, stirring occasionally, until soft and transparent. Add in the rice and cook, for 2 minutes.

3. Mix in the wine to the softened onions and cook until the liquid has evaporated off.

4. Pour in 1 cup of the stock to the onions and rice and cook, stirring occasionally with a fork, until liquid is almost absorbed. Repeat this process until rice is thick and creamy; the rice should still have some chew to it. Season to taste.

5. If the rice is still hard do not add water. It has to be cooked with additional stock.

6.Once the rice is cooked, mix in the vegetables and add Parmesan cheese and serve immediately.

7. To finish drizzle with olive oil (optional)

The Italian Saga: Lemon Panna Cotta With Strawberries

As sophisticated as it looks, Panna cotta is unbelievably easy to make.

Fabulous for dinner parties and can be made a day or two in advance and kept in the refrigerator. I also love it because it’s a real versatile recipe that can be combined easily to whatever seasonal fruits available.

Perfectly served with caramel sauce, honey, tropical fruits, cappuccino, coconut, etc… but my favorite combo is Lemon Panna Cotta with Strawberries! The lemon’s affair with the strawberry is scandalous. This recipe is irresistible and I haven’t found one person who doesn’t absolutely love it! I served it yesterday to my guests, and they practically licked the flute clean:) I love this feeling. Satisfying!

This recipe is pretty much my own after I’ve tried so many others from books and websites, it’s easy and delicious.

That’s the beauty of Tuscan cooking: simple and effortless. Enjoy!

Ingredients

Lemon Panna Cotta

  • 1 ½ tsp unflavored gelatin
  • 2 tbsp cold water
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 
1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 tbsps limoncello
  • 
1 tbsp lemon peel, grated
  • 1 cup sour cream

 Strawberry Coulis

  • 200g fresh strawberries, hulled, chopped small
  • 10g butter (optional)
  • 3 tbsp brown sugar
  • 
1 tbsp lemon juice
  • 50g fresh strawberries, hulls removed and cut in half to decorate.

Preparation

  1. To make the strawberry coulis: In a medium saucepan, combine the strawberries, butter, sugar, and lemon juice. Cook over medium-high heat until the sauce becomes like a purée. Remove from the heat. If you like your coulis thin, strain it or blend it swiftly with a stick hand blender.
  2. To make the Panna Cotta: Sprinkle the powdered gelatin over the cold water and let soak for 5-10 minutes until soft.
  3. Pour the cream and the milk in the saucepan and heat until warm. Stir in the sugar and vanilla until dissolved.
  4. Remove from heat and stir in the soaked gelatine, limoncello, lemon peel and sour cream until smooth.
  5.  Pour into serving glasses (only half of 3/4 way) and refrigerate until firm. The time depends on the size of the glass, but be sure not to take it out too early.
  6. When the Panna Cotta has firmed, pour a layer of strawberry sauce over each treat and decorate with fresh strawberries. Let set up in refrigerator.


Pasta with homemade pesto and cherry tomatoes

I’m back to Beirut, but my heart is still in Toscana! I close my eyes and I see the flowing hills of vineyards. We were in the countryside and Gosh what a charming place. Captivating! I know that I’ll be back to visit again.

Meanwhile, this week I’m indulging myself with a lot of Italian food inspired from my trip.

Winter will come soon and freeze my basil plants, so I decided to pick the leaves off to make homemade pesto sauce.

Making your own pesto might sound extravagant, but in fact it’s super easy and will sure make you win your friends impression. If you like, it can be prepared ahead of time and stored in the fridge, just make sure that it has a decent layer of olive oil on the surface to make it last for longer period of time. Pesto is not only tasty with spaghetti, but is brilliantly combined to Turkey Panini or grilled Chicken and many other dishes.

I enjoy more making the pesto myself when I know that the basil leaves have been freshly picked in my garden, the pine nuts are sourced from my mother-in-law -they have 20,000sqm of pine nuts trees around their house in Baskinta- the olive oil is from the south of Lebanon -39% of the regional distribution of olive groves in Lebanon comes from the South- and the Pecorino cheese is also homemade, a gift from Alessio, Serge’s Italian friend. He taught me to use half Parmesan and half Pecorino cheese in Pesto sauces. The outcome is fabulous! Grazie Signor:)

 

Ingredients

  • Spaghetti #7
  • 3 tbsp Olive Oil
  • 400g cherry tomatoes, sliced in half
  • Pinch of sugar
  • Basil to decorate
  • Sea Salt

For the Pesto

  • 50g Fresh Basil (or 2 big handfuls of fresh basil), chopped
  • 1 garlic clove, peeled and finely chopped
  • 1tbsp pine nuts
  • 6tbsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • Sea Salt and Pepper
  • 25g Parmesan Cheese, freshly grated

Cooking Directions

  1. To make the pesto, in a food processor blend basil, garlic, pine nuts and Parmesan around 30 seconds or until you have a smooth paste (Though, if you like it coarse, using your food processor click the pulse button very quickly maybe once or twice). Add the olive oil to the mixture and season to taste with salt and pepper. If you don’t have a food processor you can use a mortar and a pestle.
  2. Put a large pan of salted water on to boil and cook the pasta as instructed on the pack. You may like to add a drizzle of olive oil and a sprinkle of oregano in the water.
  3. While the pasta is cooking, heat the oil in a frying pan and add the tomatoes. Season with salt, pepper and a pinch of sugar. Cook over a medium heat, shaking the pan occasionally until tomatoes are soft and beginning to char.
  4. Drain the pasta. Add pesto sauce to taste (you might not choose to put all the prepared sauce), drizzle little olive oil and mix. Add tomatoes.
  5. Serve the pasta decorated with fresh basil leaves and more fresh shaved Parmesan.

Delightful Rose Cakes

I have this baking pan, which I love from NordicWare, it makes Rose Cakes. Charming! Kaia is also crazy about it and would do me anything, including going to bed early, just to help me baking a cake in this special pan.

The below recipe came with the pan, I type it in here for you to try it. It can also be made in a regular muffin pan as well, so go ahead and take your chances. Alternatively you can buy the pan online it’s worth every penny!!


Ingredients

• 1 1/2 cups sugar

• 1 cup butter

• 5 eggs

• 3 cups flour

• 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

• 1 1/4 cups milk

• 2 teaspoons vanilla

• 1/3 cup raspberry or strawberry jam, divided in 2 portions

• Icing sugar (optional)

Cooking Directions

1.    Preheat oven to 325 degrees F / 180 degrees C.

2.    Grease and flour pan well.

3.    In large mixing bowl, combine sugar and butter and mix well.

4.    Add eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each one.

5.    Add remaining ingredients except jam and mix well, scraping bowl occasionally.

6.    Fill individual cups 2/3 full.

7.    Spoon half the jam (this recipe makes 2 batches) on top of the batter, dividing evenly between the cups.

8.    Gently swirl jam into the top of the batter, using the tip of a knife.

9.    Bake for 20-25 minutes or until toothpick inserted comes out clean; cool 10 minutes in pan; turn out and continue to cool.

10. Bake second batch.

11. Dust with icing sugar if desired.

Makes 24 cupcakes