20 min Asparagus & Pesto Risotto


This was my first attempt at making risotto without assistance from my wonderful rice cooker.  The recipe was one from Jamie Oliver‘s 20min meal iPhone app where the directions are so easy it’s ridiculous at how beautiful it tastes.  If you love risotto like I do, then try this one out! yuuuummmmm…..

RECIPE AND DIRECTIONS FROM JAMIE OLIVER’S 20 MINUTE MEALS iPHONE APPLICATION

Asparagus and Pesto Risotto (2 servings)

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 medium bunch – Asparagus
  • 2 heaped tsp – Pesto (home-made is best)
  • 1 sm – red onion
  • 1 stick – celery
  • 2 knobs – Butter
  • 150g – Arborio rice (Japanese rice also works well)
  • 400 ml – Vegetable stock
  • 25g – Parmesan Cheese
  • 100ml – white wine (use a nice one)
  • splash – olive oil
  • pinch – sea salt (I didn’t use any)
  • black pepper

DIRECTIONS

  1. Pre-heat your oven to the lowest setting & place your plates in the oven to warm
  2. Place a large saucepan on a low to medium heat.  Peel the onion & trim the celery stick then finely chop them
  3. Add 1 knob of butter to the hot pan with onion, celery, a splash of olive oil, and a splash of water.  Cook over a low heat for around 5 mins, stirring occasionally, until soft.  Meanwhile…
  4. Bring the stock to the boil in a medium saucepan, then turn the heat down to low.
  5. Snap the woody bases off the asparagus and add them to the saucepan of stock.  Slice the remaining tender stalks up to the tip then leave the tip whole.  Put to one side.
  6. Finely grate the Parmesan.
  7. Once your vegetables are very soft (but not browned) add the rice to the pan.
  8. Stir & fry the rice for a minute until translucent, then add the wine and keep stirring until all the wine has absorbed by the rice.
  9. Turn the heat under the rice up to medium then add a ladle full of hot stock, avoiding the asparagus stalks – these are there to add flavour but not to be eaten!
  10. Stir constantly and continue adding stock, a ladle at a time, waiting for the rice to soak it all up before adding the next ladle full.  Continue until you’ve used tow-thirds of the stock.
  11. Once two-thirds of your stock has been added, stir the sliced asparagus and tips to the rice.
  12. Keep adding the stock until the rice if just cooked and the risotto has a nice oozy consistency.  If you run out of stock, use boiling water.
  13. Take the pan of risotto off the heat and stir in your teaspoon of pesto and half the parmesan.  Cut your lemon in half then squeeze in a little juice.
  14. Taste the risotto and season with salt and pepper (if you need it).  Cover the pan with a lid.
  15. Divide the risotto between the two warmed plates.  Sprinkle over the remaining parmesan and top each with a dollop of pesto. DONE!
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Blueberry, Blackberry & Soured Cream Cake with Cheese Cake Frosting


Distracted from the books again, but this time in the shape of an amazing cake recipe from the BBC GoodFood website.  This recipe is full of all the right things, but far from healthy, although I do trick myself into thinking a cake like this is good for you… it does contain fruit after all.  Anyway, what’s life without a little indulgence ehe?

This recipe is super easy and looks really pretty too, but most of all it tastes…well…find out for yourself, I swear you WILL love it 😛 oooo and the cream cheese and soured cream frosting with those beautiful little berries as they pop in your mouth….mmmmmhmm….

I wish I had made this cake in the morning to capture an image in the best of the day light, but artificial just had to do as I was definitely not going to let this little beauty tease me until morning.

You can find the recipe here.  The only adjustment I made was reducing the sugar  from 175g to 100g and used half blueberries, half blackberries. The tanginess of the blackberries really balanced out the sweetness of the frosting making it very moreish.

Hummingbird Cupcakes


 

Wow! It has been a while, but now I’m back. I am absolutely consumed by my MSc, but more about that another time. What is important is my return to the kitchen. What better way to inject life into my passion for food and baking than experimenting with yummy Hummingbird cake recipes. My wonderful friends Ali n Ali bought me the cookbook for Christmas quite conveniently a little before Mrs Ali’s 30th birthday celebrations 😛 . A great excuse it was too to make some gorgeous red velvet cupcakes and chocolate ginger cupcakes topped off with cream cheese frosting (mmm…yeah… I know they don’t fit into the whole healthy cooking theme I have going here, but it was for a 30th birthday after all). Anyway…My first attempt didn’t go quite to plan, possibly due my uncontrollable need to change every recipe I try out. However, take 2 and 3 were actually not too bad, maybe not as beautiful as those by the experts in Hummingbird bakery, but they did taste pretty good (well, Andy and I thought so anyway).


Chocolate and Ginger

Ingredients:

  • 100g plain flour
  • 2og cocoa powder
  • 140g caster sugar
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • a pinch of salt
  • 1 egg
  • 40g unsalted powder
  • 120g whole milk
  • 1 tblsp ginger preserve (this was my addition 😛 – I really couldn’t resist)

Directions: pre-heat oven to 170 degrees C (325 degrees F) Gas 3

  1. put the flour, cocoa powder, sugar, baking powder, salt and butter in a free standing electric mixer with a paddel attachment and beat on slow speed until you get a sandy consistency and everything is combined.
  2. Whisk the milk, egg and vanilla extract together in a jug, then slowly pour out about half into the flour mixture, beat to combine and turn the mixer up to high speed to get rid of any lumps.
  3. Turn the mixer down to a slower speed and slowly pour in the remaining milk mixture (scrape any unmixed ingredients from the side of the bowl with a rubber spatula). Continue mixing for a couple more minutes until the mixture is smooth. Do not overmix.
  4. spoon the mixture into paper cases until 2/3 full bake in a pre-heated oven for 20 -25 min (if using large muffin cases) 15 min (if using small fairy cake cases). Leave cakes to cool on a wire rack then decorate as you please.

Red Velvet

Ingredients: MAKES 12

  • 60g unsalted butter at room temp.
  • 150g caster sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 10g cocoa powder
  • 20 ml red food colouring
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 120 ml butter milk
  • 150g plain flour
  • 1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 1 1/2 tsp white wine vinegar

Directions: pre-heat oven to 170 degrees C (325 degrees F) Gas 3

  1. Put the butter and the sugar in a free standing electric mixer with a paddle attachment and beat on medium until well incorporated
  2. in a separate bowl, mix together the cocoa powder, red food colouring and vanilla extract to make a thick, dark paste. Add to the butter mixture and mix thoroughly until evenly combined and coloured. (scrape mixture from the sides of the bowl). Turn the mixer down to slow speed and slowly pour in half of the buttermilk. Beat until everything is well incorporated. Repeat the process until all the buttermilk and flour have been added. Turn the mixer to high and beat until you have a smooth, even mixture. Turn the mixer to a low speed and add the salt, bicarbonate of soda and vinegar. Beat until well mixed, then turn up the speed again and beat for a coupe more minutes
  3. Spoon the mixture into paper cases until 2/3 full and bake in a pre-heated oven for 20 – 25mins (LARGE) 15 min (small)

And the best part, not just a 30th b’day party, but a fancy dress party!! 😀

Manly Banana Cinnamon Cupcakes



Here you will find my yummy banana loaf recipe in the shape of little manly style cupcakes.  I was going make a traditional cup cake recipe with all the frills and a variety of flavours, but I didn’t!   Instead, I settled on, in my opinion, the perfect sponge.  They are like mini banana loaf buns, however, this time I topped them with a chocolate & cinnamon cream cheese frosting for added naughtiness.  They do look a little manlier than your usual cup cake, don’t they?  So that’s who I made them for, a newly turned 30-year-old man. Welcome to my world!

Happy Birthday Tom!!

Ingredients:

  • 113g butter or margarine
  • 1/2 cup sugar (granulated, caster, or mix in some demerara, whatever you have to hand)
  • 1 cup self raising flour (I couldn’t find self raising here in Japan so used all purpose)
  • [1.5 tsp baking powder & 1/2 tsp salt] – if you use all purpose
  • 2 eggs
  • 3 medium, very ripe bananas
  • Handful crushed walnuts
  • 1 tsp heaped cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp clove powder
  • 1 tsp nutmeg powder
  • 1 bar of chocolate (broken into small pieces)
  1. Pre-heat oven to 130 degrees
  2. Grease a muffin tray with butter or marg
  3. Mash the bananas with a sturdy fork or blend in a blender
  4. Cream the butter and sugar together and mix in the eggs
  5. Mix together the mushy bananas.
  6. Mix in the sieved flour and spices
  7. Mix in the chocolate raisins and crushed walnuts.
  8. divide evenly between muffin holes and bake for 40 minutes
  9. check for they’re by piercing the center of a cup cake. If it comes out clean, cool at room temperature then decorate as desired.

While I Was Away


It has been a little over a month now since returning to Scotland.  Here is what I have cooked/ate whilst I have been AWOL from Bendi Benri.

Feeling a lot more settled in now I am ready to embark on my new life as a student AGAIN and get back into creating more yum.

Enjoy!

First up, home-coming welcome dinner, beautifully and deliciously prepared by my wonderful mother.  It is very clear to me now that my mum is the source for my desire to cook.  She effortlessly manages to put on amazing wholesome spreads.  What a mum.

Nutty Chocolate Brownies (heaven in your mouth) & Scones with Home made Jam

Victoria Sponge

prawn & avocado cocktail

Home Made Steak Pie

Home Made traditional Scottish Oatcakes

What I forgot to capture was the Ultimate Chocolate cake smothered in Ganache! I am gaining pounds just thinking about it! I swear that cake was to die for! Here’s a link to the recipe.

A flying visit home then back to Edinburgh to meet Izumi and Sofie, friends we met in Japan.  They had never tasted Haggis before, so Andy and I decided to take them to Urban Angel to give it a try.  I love the concept of this Restaurant, stylish and delicious, “using the best local, organic, free-range and fairly traded produce available.”

To follow I visited a three-day foodies festival, filled with freebies of scrumptious organically prepared fresh food from all over the country.  Some healthy and some just down right naughty!  I was in my element.

Salmon and potato pie!

Tiger Prawn Paella

Feeling inspired from my weekend boozing and munching, I bought a nice big bunch of fresh beetroot and put together a yummy beetroot cake smothered in cream cheese icing.  Here’s the recipe I used.  Yep, I AM growing by the day! Twice the size I was a month ago. Oops!

No time to break just yet.  The Edinburgh festival brought my folks and brother up to Edinburgh.  The weekend consisted mainly of indulgence and laughter. Good times!

Below we eat at Amore Dogs another very trendy restaurant serving Italian scrum.

tuna nicoise salad on the side of a grilled sea bass on a bed of baked tomatoes.

Goats Cheese & Sun dried tomato Risotto

Wow what a month.  Loved every minute!

I really miss Japan and crave a lot of the food we ate whilst we lived there, especially Soba noodles, so I treated us to a yummy crispy tofu soba dish.   Satisfying beyond expectation! Go me!

Ingredients; serves 2 if you really have to share.

2 portions of soba noodles

150g Tofu (drained and cut into cubes)

1 small red onion (sliced into half moons)

1 stick of celery

around 12 sugar snap peas (halved)

2 cloves garlic

Juice from 1/2 a lemon

1 T light soy sauce

1 tsp pure honey

1 T chopped fresh basil

1/2 teaspoon chilli (from the jar or fresh)

2 T olive oil

2 tsp vegetable powdered bullion

2 T corn flour

Directions:

1.  prepare all ingredients

2. evenly coat the tofu in the corn flour

3.  heat up the olive oil in a wok or frying pan then add the tofu.  When coloured a reddish brown remove from the pan and place on some absorbing kitchen paper

4. In the same pan add the onions and garlic and cook until translucent

5. add the all of the other ingredients except the soba and basil and lemon then stir through on a medium heat.

6. In the mean time boil the soba until just tender then rinse quickly under cold water to avoid over cooking.

stir through the noodles, tofu, basil and lemon juice to the vegetable mixture then serve in warm bowls.

To finish, here is yesterdays lunch…

Chilli Squash Soup accompanied with rice crackers topped with cheddar cheese (hello my long-lost naughty friend) and cranberry sauce. yummmm…..

Ingredients; serves 4-6

I small butternut squash

4 sticks of celery

1 yellow onion

3 cloves of garlic

50g low fat soft cheese

2 tsp vegetable bullion

Directions:

1.  Saute the onion and garlic until translucent

2.  In the mean time bring a med/large pot of water (2 litre) the boil

3. cut the squash into cubes then allow to boil until tender

4.  when the squash is ready add all other ingredients except the cream cheese, then mix through

5. Turn off the heat then use a hand held blender to pulse the mixture until smooth(ish) stir though the cream cheese then serve in warm bowls

Purple Birthday Cake


Since last weekends little disaster, I have felt a little shy in the kitchen and uninspired to experiment.  I know every disaster can only lead to a better success, but I just can’t seem to find the will power.

However, I think I’ve finally come to the decision on which birthday cake I should try to make for my 30th.  I found it here, but super surprised by the colour the egg plants give to the cake.  I’m not completely convinced they will make my cake as vibrant a purple as you see in the image, so I thought that if I purée 200g of blueberries and add it to the batter they may produce a vibrant colourful cake.  I’m not too sure though.  I’m a little worried the cake will turn out a washed out grey colour.  Only one way to find out!

If you know what the results might be, please post your advice.  I will appreciate any help I can get.

I really want this cake to look and taste impressive.

I’m so excited it’s almost the weekend.  I know it’s a pretty scary birthday to celebrate, but I’m actually really looking forward to it. It is only a number after all.  Another excuse to splash out on some Champagne :D.

Anyway, here is the recipe I’m gonna try out tomorrow night for Sat.  Please advise if you know it definitely won’t work.

Eggplant and blueberry Cake Ingredients:

  • ½-cup margarine
  • ¼-teaspoon salt
  • ½-cup sugar
  • 1-teaspoon baking powder
  • ½-cup honey
  • 1-teaspoon cinnamon
  • 2 egg whites
  • pinch of nutmeg
  • 2 cups grated eggplant
  • 200g frozen blueberries
  • ½-teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1½-cups white flour
  • 1-cup nuts (optional)

Frosting

  • 3 ounces cream cheese
  • 2 tbsp honey
  • 100g white chocolate

Directions:

  1. Preheat the rice cooker on cake setting to 55min.
  2. Cream the margarine in a medium-sized bowl until soft and whipped, then add the sugar and honey until mixture is light and fluffy.
  3. In another bowl sieve the flour, salt, baking powder, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, and nuts to thoroughly combine.
  4. Blend the frozen blueberries until smooth.
  5. Stir the grated eggplant and the blueberry purée into the butter/sugar/honey mixture
  6. Add the flour mixture to the sugary butter mixture and combine by hand to incorporate just until the flour has mixed in.
  7. In a separate bowl whisk the egg whites to a firm peak then fold into the batter.
  8. Pour the mixture into a cake pan and bake for about a half hour to forty-five minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean.
  9. This cake can be topped with cream cheese-vanilla icing made with a mixture of 3 ounces of cream cheese and 1 cup of confectioners’ sugar, and 1 T of vanilla. Drizzle the icing over the cake and then top with a light sprinkle of nutmeg.  (I’m going to try a cream cheese and white chocolate frosting)

Rice Cooker Blueberry & Lemon Cream Cheese Pound Cake.


I have tried to decide on a cake to bake for my big birthday night out on Saturday.

Here’s the criteria;

  • I’m not so fussed about it being healthy.  If it is then it’s a bonus.
  • I want it rich and decadent
  • Delicious
  • Amazing
  • Beautiful
  • colourful
  • Not too delicate as it has to travel 45 minutes to the restaurant.

My first thought was a red velvet cake due to its boldness in colour and style.  Unfortunately  none of my local supermarkets stocked enough red food colouring, so that was that option out of the window.  I actually can’t seem to justify using so much food colouring either.  They do look really pretty though.

Do you think the cake would turn a beautiful purple if I used grated aubergine skins and blueberry purée?

Anyway, whilst I was rummaging around other foodies blogs I stumbled upon a beautiful blueberry sponge cake with cream cheese frosting, which looked toooo good to pass by.   This one was quickly marked in my favourites.

The cream cheese in the frosting of this recipe reminded me that I have always wanted to try out a baked cheese cake recipe in my rice cooker.  You see, baked cheese cakes here in Japan are the best you will try.  They are so simple, containing the main flavours, cheese and the zest of lemon, but they just look too plain for a 30th birthday party.  I have never really liked the biscuit bases in the ones I have tried before and the filling is always too creamy for me.  However, they do look colourfully impressive, with all the various combinations of fruit don’t they?

Decisions, decisions.  Cheese cake or blueberry cake???

So, I thought, why not join both cake ideas?  It would have been too much of a risk experimenting on the friday night before the big night out, so today is the day the cake experimentation began.

The results?  So far so good.  It has risen at least, and looks promising.  I am now waiting for it to cool completely before taking it out of  ‘Benri’ for a photo shoot.

Ok, the results are in.  Just as I thought.   A superficial disaster!!  I will say this though, it is absolutely delicious.   Try out the recipe in a regular oven, it is yummy.

I’m going to try this one again, but not using a ring tin next time.  My tin was useless. It wasn’t stick proof and wasn’t greased enough 😦 I think I’ll save it for the fruit terrines in future.

At least you can always rely on the sun to make any disaster look pretty, ehe?

For the cake, which is beautifully rich and lemony, here’s the recipe.

Ingredients

  • 200g cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 2 tbsp whole milk
  • 1 cup superfine sugar (caster sugar)
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 2 eggs, separated
  • 1 1/2 cup all purpose flour
  • juice and zest from  lemon juice
  • 1 tsp apple cider vinegar
  • 100g butter
  • 1 cup blueberries (fresh or frozen)

Directions

  1. Pre-heat your rice cooker on the cake setting.
  2. Grease the rice cooker pan with butter or oil.
  3. sift the flour 3 times, on the 3rd time sift in the baking powder and soda
  4. Beat cream cheese with milk to soften.
  5. mix the butter and sugar together until fluffy
  6. Add the egg yolks then mix until smooth.
  7. mix in the cream cheese mixture, vinegar and the lemon juice & zest to the butter mixture
  8. In a separate bowl, beat egg whites until fluffy.
  9. Gradually fold beaten egg whites into the cream cheese mixture, stirring gently.
  10. mix in the blueberries
  11. Pour into the bundt cake tin (make sure it fits in your rice cooker first) then insert the tin into the rice cooker pan and smooth the surface.
  12. Bake 35-40 minutes, until a pick inserted in the middle of the center comes out clean.
  13. be careful not to open the lid until it has been in the oven for at least 20 minutes.