A simple healthy breakfast… Greek yoghurt with fig compote and pistachios

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A combination of yummy and heaven, this is food that touches the soul.

A compote of fresh figs in lime juice and zest enveloped in Greek yoghurt and scattered with pistachios…. How much better can it get ? And I make a batch of compote and keep it in an airtight container in the fridge and it lasts for up to a week….

You will need :

1/2 kg figs
Juice and zest of two small ones limes
4 tablespoons honey
35 g water
Greek yoghurt, I use Total by Fage www.uk.fage.eu, fat free version which is 57 calories per 100g as opposed to 98 calories for the full fat version, allow 170g per portion
Some lightly toasted chopped pistachios

Leave a few figs aside for garnish.
Remove hard stem and chop figs with skin on into quarters
Place all ingredients in a large pan, bring to boil and turn off.
Cool in fridge
Add require
Divide fig mixture into 2. Mash one half of the figs.
Add the mashed figs to the yoghurt and stir.
Place in bowls to serve.
Spoon other half of compote in the centre of the yoghurt.
Garnish with a whole fig and toasted pistachios.

East immediately, heaven in a bowl !

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Quick weekday meal: Rigatoni with Fileja Herb Mix

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Everyone is busy today, start of a new week before shut down on the island when a good number of businesses actually completely shut down for a week or two in the height of the summer. I don’t quite understand it yet. It is a tradition I suppose which does not quite make sense for international trade where it is business as usual for the rest of the world. These are all the things that make it so different living on this island, the deep rooted traditions are still here….Long live the holiday spirit !

A very quick healthy supper for tonight. I found in one of the grocery stores on the island a herb mix in a packet labelled ‘Fileja Herb Mix’. I have tried the dish last week with spaghetti and it was devoured. I love the large rigatoni and I am going to simply cook them in plenty salted water, toss them in olive oil and serve with shavings of Parmesan. To accompany, we will have a large Mediterranean Salad with lots of capers and cherry tomatoes.

You will need:

Rigatoni, allow 75 g – 110 g per person depending on size of appetites, today I am using De Cecco size 24 www.dececco.it/en/ @dececcodal1886
Olive oil, just a drizzle
Water and a little bit of Salt
Fileja Herb Mix allow 25 g for two portions

Cook the Pasta in plenty salted water. Leave al dente. Drain, toss in olive oil and the Fileja mix and serve with shavings of Parmesan and freshly ground pepper. Do not add any more salt as the mix contains sun dried tomatoes which are already salty.

Serve with a Salad of your choice. We are having the Mediterranean Salad which has been posted on my blog a few weeks ago….

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Totally luscious Cuban Baracoa Chocolate Tart with Bee Pollen…

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My chocolate hero is definitely Willie Harcourt Cooze www.williescacao.com, he who appeared in a Channel 4 documentary a few years ago, he who gave up everything to pursue his dream and produce the purest cacao in the world.

As soon as his unusual cylinders hit the Waitrose www.waitrose.com shelves just after the documentary, they disappeared within hours, all completely gone. We had to wait in further suspense until we got a glimpse of pure Cuban, Venezuelan Black and Rio Caribe ….. and I remember very well how I could not wait to get back home to try it …

What a story and I am full of admiration for him. To believe in a dream and to pursue it against all odds and then to escalate to stardom and prove everyone wrong, to prove wrong all those who did not believe in him during his journey to success. And the product is as magnificent as was promised!

So ever since his chocolate first hit the Waitrose shelves, I always keep a supply in my larder and love to grate pure cacao on my chili as instructed by Willie.

This morning I set about to make something for tea as we were expecting guests and this tart was created out of having a shortage of ingredients for a local chocolate tart that I planned to bake.

I can only say that it is seriously decadent, pure luscious luxury in your mouth. A wonderful chocolate crust brushed with local warm thyme honey encases a filling of ground hazlenuts, pure ground almonds and Willie ‘s Cuban Chocolate from Baracoa. This is cooled down and brushed with a ganache of chocolate then topped with a scatter of bee pollen that looks like gold specs on the dark chocolate, bright yellow gold dust……and the taste is as dramatic as the visual impact…

Willie, I am full of admiration for you … I should really call this Willie’s Cacao Tart …. In many ways truly a tart of dreams…

You will need a 12inch tart dish

Heat oven to 170 degrees

Baking time about 30 to 35 minutes. Prep Time 30 minutes

Ingredients for Sweet Chocolate Pastry
300g Flour
50g Cocoa powder
100g Sugar
100 g Butter
5g Baking Powder
3 drops Vanilla Extract
70 g Water

Sieve flour, cocoa powder and baking powder into a large bowl. Add the softened butter cut up into small pieces and rub in until it resembles fine breadcrumbs. Add the vanilla extract. Mix the sugar with water until it has dissolved and mix into the dry ingredients until they bind evenly. Wrap in cling film and leave to rest in a cool place for at least 15 minutes.

Ingredients for Chocolate Nut Filling

150 g Pure Ground Almonds
150 g Pure Ground Hazlenuts
200g Sugar
150 g Sweet crumbs from left over cakes crumbled up like breadcrumbs
4 eggs
150 g cream or evaporated milk
100g cocoa powder
2 tablespoons Thyme honey
6 large tablespoons Grated Chocolate, I used Cuban chocolate from Baracoa
4 drops Vanilla Extract
Tip of a teaspoon instant coffee

To finish : 150 g Dark Chocolate, 15 g cream and bee pollen to scatter

In a large bowl mix the ground almonds and hazlenuts, sugar and sweet crumbs. Add sieved cocoa powder, grated chocolate, vanilla, instant coffee and mix well. Finally add the well beaten eggs, evaporated milk or cream and mix with wooden spoon until the mixture is even. Test for a dropping consistency and if necessary add another egg.

Grease the tart dish. Open the rested pastry with a rolling pin on a lightly floured surface. Line the dish. Trim the pastry neatly and dock it with a fork. Spread the warm honey on the bottom of the pastry and then fill with the ground nut and chocolate mix. Take a spoon and dip in hot water and run over the surface of the filling to achieve a tidy finish. Bake in a hot oven at 170 degrees for 30- 35 minutes. When baked cool on a wire rack.

To finish off, melt 150g of Dark Chocolate and spread it on the tart. You can either use a palate knife but I like to brush it on with a large pastry brush in several layers. Decorate as desired. i have sprinkled bee pollen on mine and it looks beautiful. A sort of shabby chic beautiful, not perfect but somehow I think there is something very moreish about it. Store in an airtight tin. This tart will keep very well in an airtight container and in fact the flavour will improve.

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Jam Making Day ! Fig Jam and Zucchini Ginger Jam …

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What would you expect Paradise to be like ? I ask myself this question from time to time and wonder if it is similar to the tiny island in the Mediterranean where I now live. A heaven on earth, blissful, serene, surrounded by natural beauty…

The sun shines nearly everyday and it is hot, very hot at times, but I love the heat. We are surrounded by the sea and it is bluer than blue can be and life passes by, one day into the next and it is a dream. Plentiful fresh food, the freshest fish that can be eaten nearly underdone, a feast every day, good food every day….This is an island blessed with all the good things in life. How lucky can we be to find ourselves here ?

Fresh fruit is abundant, lots of it, fat ripe fruit bursting with flavor and goodness, just perfect, needing to be eaten on the day. All kinds of citrus, summer berries and plums…..the colors are sensational, the smells intoxicating.

This week marks my first visit to the main fruit market, somewhere isolated in the centre of the island. It is too tempting and I want to buy it all.

I can perhaps make some jams. My mother is a brilliant jam maker but i am quite clueless. She gives me a lot of advice and I decide to take the plunge. Inspite of my vast cooking experience, I am a little bit nervous when I hear about setting points and sterilization. This is going to be a learning curve for me.

My first attempt results in the strawberry jam I posted last week and now it looks like jams are becoming part of the weekly routine and yesterday I make two more jams.

I have all sorts of ideas I want to try out as these jams are divine, like I have not tasted before. It must be the goodness of the succulent Mediterranean fruits rooted in the earth of this paradise island, nurtured by the Mediterranean sun.

I am quite excited as there is something satisfying about knowing what has gone into every jar. No additives, nothing artificial, just pure fruit, and sugar laced with honey and whenever possible pectin that comes naturally from squeezed lemons. Here are my two recipes of the week and I hope you will enjoy making them as much as I have.

Fig Jam

You will need:

2 kg figs
1.8 kg sugar
4 spoons honey
Grated rind of 2 lemons
4 lemons squeezed

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Wash the figs and remove any hard bits and bruising but keep skin on.

Place them in a large pot with the lemon juice, sugar and grated lemon rind. Bring to a boil on moderate heat.

Bring the figs to boil until they are a golden color and the jam reaches setting point. Stir in the honey and mix with wooden spoon.

I use the saucer method for testing the setting point. Place a saucer in the freezer and test the jam by putting a few drops on the cold plate. If the jam wrinkles when you push it with your finger, it has reach setting point. If it is still runny, return to heat, boil and retest. The best color is achieved when the jam is not over heated for a long period of time, but this is a matter of preference.

Now you will need to sterilize the jars. Rinse them in clean warm water and allow them to drip dry and place upside down on an rack in the oven at 140C for half an hour.

Pour the jam into the jars preferably through a funnel. I wear latex gloves to prevent contamination. I like to the jam into warm jars while it was still warm.

If you are going to store the jam, I suggest placing a disc of waxed baking paper onto the jam before covering with a lid.

You will need to store the jam in a cool dark place. This is a lovely thick jam. More like a compote or what they call an extra jam.

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Zucchini Ginger Jam

This is a wonderful consistency and color and is very good served along a strong cheese and some plain water biscuits.

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2 kg zucchini, skin on, chopped
1.8 kg sugar
4 teaspoons pectin
4 squeezed lemons
4 spoons honey
Zest of 1 lemon
2 knobs fresh ginger, 1 left whole, the other peeled and grated

Place zucchini into a preserving pan with the lemon juice, then cook on a medium heat, stirring often, until the pieces are turning translucent and soft but do not let them get mushy. Add the sugar zest, pectin, grated ginger, whole ginger knob and stir. At the end of the cooking you will need to remove the knob of ginger. It is just for flavor.
Bring to a boil and stir. Simmer and keep a gentle steady boil until the jam reaches setting point. Mine took a good 45 minutes.

Pour the jam into sterilized jars and secure lids tightly.

It’s delicious, the color of honey. Serve with a selection of cheeses. Such a good consistency !

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By special request: A tart of coconut custard in coconut crust…

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I am visiting a great aunt who is in a care home. She loves freshly baked tarts.

She is requesting pineapple, kiwi and grapes…. Quite a combination and something I would not have probably put together. But always far more thoughtful to take a gift that she actually wants as opposed to something I think she may like. I try to please….

Coconut is also a favorite of hers. So I am making a tart of coconut custard in a coconut pastry shell topped with her selection of fruits.

The result is delicious and she is delighted. As I share a slice with her over a cup of tea I decide that the coconut combination and crust is just heavenly and I must make it again…

Coconut Custard Tart

You will need :

I use a deep 12 inch tart dish
Heat the oven to 175 C

    For the Sweet Pastry:
    320g flour
    100 g Butter or Margarine
    5g Baking Powder
    100g Caster Sugar
    70 g coconut milk
    50 g desiccated coconut
    Few drops Vanilla Extract

Sieve flour and baking powder. Rub in butter until mixture is like fine breadcrumbs.
Add vanilla extract and desiccated coconut and mix in well.
Dissolve the sugar into the coconut mik. Make well in the middle of the dry ingredients and bring together. Place in cling film in fridge for at least half an hour.
Grease the tart dish and dust it lightly with flour. Roll out pastry and line the bottom of the dish. Dock the pastry with a fork and place in fridge again for at least 15 minutes.
Bake the pastry case blind for 15 minutes until it forms a crust. Be careful not to overdo it. For a quick way to bake blind without the hassle, look up my posting on baking blind

    For the custard topping:
    1 large can of 410 g Evaporated Milk
    400 g coconut milk
    100g water
    200 g caster sugar
    50 g desiccated coconut
    3 drops good vanilla extract
    Separately, 100 g cornflour mixed in 150 g water
    And of course the fruit that was requested, fresh pineapple, kiwi and grapes!

Gently heat the first five ingredients and bring to a gentle boil stirring with a wooden spoon. Add the cornflour mix and stir while bringing to a gentle boil. Remove from heat immediately and carry on stirring. Pour over the cooled down coconut crust.

Decorate with your chosen fruit before the custard cools down completely so that they will set in the tart. Place in fridge. To serve you can either dust lightly with icing sugar or glaze with two spoons of heated up apricot jam mixed with four spoons of water. Brush onto the fruit.

I think that this tart will be delicious with a canned pineapple topping….

If you have any questions Email is leaahogg@gmail.com or message me via Facebook 🙂
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Quick weekday meal: Healthy lamb koftas with watermelon and mint…

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A busy Monday and a quick meal for tonight, a healthy one.

I am using good quality minced lamb for my koftas, no oil required as I bake them on a sheet and they retain all the moisture. The salted watermelon and mint has no dressing.

I bake the koftas in a hot oven on baking paper and then put them on kitchen towel as soon as they are cooked to absorb natural oils. I also use a mix of fresh and dried mint to get more depth in the mint flavor. Preparation time for this meal is under 10 minutes and it is something a bit different. The koftas are delicious hot or cold.

With the watermelon, I only add fresh mint and a good sea salt. You would be surprised how good salted melons and watermelons are. I will serve with a small dipping pot of fresh yoghurt.

You will need :

Preheat oven to 200 C

Makes 12 koftas

500 g lamb
Fresh mint, I use about two sprigs
1/2 tsp dried mint
Maldon salt
Freshly ground pepper
1/2 tsp dried coriander
1 teaspoon Balsamic vinegar

Prepare an oven tray with a baking sheet.

I like to break up fresh mint leaves manually so that they are uneven in size and the taste in the koftas is more defined.

Mix all ingredients together.

Divide into 12 pieces and roll to a small sausage like shape. Do not add flour, it’s not necessary.

Arrange on baking tray. Bake in hot oven for 20 minutes and turn over for another 10 or 15 depending on how crisp you like them.

Serve hot or cold.

For the watermelon, chop up into neat pieces. Squeeze a bit of lemon. Arrange on plate and sprinkle some sea salt and fresh mint. I love the flavor and texture of Maldon Salt. Garnish with fresh mint leaves.

Have a good week !

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So curious about the Cronut !

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The American dream certainly lives on in the form of the cronut. What a discovery!

Since I read about the birth of the cronut in May, I have been curious… so very curious that my mouth waters when I hear about the long queues and waiting lists to get one.

How will I manage to try one stranded on this tiny beautiful Mediterranean island?

So after two months of Cronut dreams, I cannot deprive myself any more and today is the day when I go the home made route and bring Manhattan to my kitchen….

The result is great, not sure if it tastes like the real thing but certainly looks like it and they are delicious…. I so love New York !

Well done Dominique Ansel www.dominiqueansel.com you are a genius ….

This recipe makes 4

You will need:
500 g Puff pastry (I tried a batch each with home made and shop bought pastry)
Vegetable oil for frying
Two plain cutters, the perfect sizes were 8 cm diameter and 2 1/2 cm diameter
Vanilla sugar for rolling the Cronuts
I dusted them with pollen..(optional). The calories will not go away but it is nice to include a superfood, somehow makes me feel a little less guilty about indulging.
Kitchen towel
Baking paper

I will post a good recipe for puff pastry later today but the shop bought pastry worked just as well. The taste was very similar and it was hard to identify the different doughs.

Dust the table with flour and roll out the prepared puff pastry very gently, fold into two and roll out again. Repeat this twice. The last time you do this, brush the pastry with water very lightly before folding it and gently pat it with the wooden spoon.

Using the large cutter, cut out rings of pastry, pushing the cutter sharply and gently once so that the edges are neat and well defined.

Using the small cutter, cut a whole in the middle of each pastry round, again tap cutter sharply and gently.

Heat the oil and test by putting in a very small piece of pastry and it should float to the surface. This is a deep fried recipe so you will need quite a large amount in your pan.

Place the pastry rings into the oil and as soon as you see it turn a golden color, flip it over and fry the other side. The rings puff up and you should see very defined layers

Remove from pan and place on kitchen towel to absorb some of the oil.

Prepare a baking sheet with sugar or vanilla sugar. Roll the Cronuts in the sugar. I think they look better with the sides unsugared as the layers are so beautiful that it is a pity to cover them. Plate and I sprinkle some pollen on them which make them even prettier… gives the cronut a breakfast feel. The pollen flavor works very well.

What a treat …

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And in the newspaper here !

Carob Syrup from the heart of the Mediterranean!

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I get excited when I stumble on old recipes and look forward to trying them out in my kitchen. Today I am making a cake from a really old recipe but it requires carob syrup, a rather unusual ingredient. Although it is available on the island, I decide to make it myself. Is this a good idea?

Carob is gluten free, nut free, dairy free and caffeine free and the tree is native to the Mediterranean region. It is a great source of vitamins and is rich in protein, iron and calcium.

For the syrup, you will need:

2 kilos carob
2 kilos water ( I like weighing my water or measure 2 liters)
4 kilos sugar
1 teaspoon ground cloves
1 teaspoon vanilla or less according to your preference
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Rinse the pods several times in water.

Roast them but do not overdo it, I left mine in the oven at 150C for 40 minutes

Leave to cool and break each pod into three or four pieces.

Immerse in water and soak overnight and boil in the same water for an hour,

Drain the liquid through a sieve and press pods to extract as much flavor as possible.

Add sugar, cloves, vanilla and cinnamon to the water,

Bring the water to a steady boil for for one hour to 1 1/2 hours, depending on how thick you want the syrup.

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Leave to cool and pour into sterilized jars before it fully cools down.

Soaking the carobs

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Breakfast Muffins: Chorizo and Feta

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I love cooking for my kids and as they mature their preference is savory rather than sweet.

I have a morning appointment so I am up very early and baking some fresh muffins for breakfast to surprise them when they wake. I am making great giant muffins as they are so appealing and appear to be bursting with flavor before you even have your first bite, nearly-ready-to-overflow-muffins-but-not-quite!

I always like cooking new things and I am using chorizo and feta which may sound like very strong flavors but they are small quantities and savory muffins are generally quite bland so these ingredients will give them a bit of umph ! This is an old perfect muffin recipe, a never-fail old recipe. If you do not like chorizo, do not use or use pancetta, smoked ham or bacon instead.

The whole house fills with the aroma of good fresh baking. I take them out of the oven and wonder if the combination will work….
Now for the taste with my cup of tea….I must say the flavors are fantastic. I can taste the subtle tones of paprika from the chorizo combined with the tangy creamy feta. I love the flavors and let us hope the kids like them too.

This recipe makes 10 standard size muffins or 5 giant ones like mine.

You will need:

2 cups plain flour
3 level teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
Pinch of sugar
1 cup low fat or fat free milk
4 tablespoons melted butter
200g feta, that is one standard packet, I used low fat
75g cubed chorizo
2 eggs

Preheat oven to 180 C.

Crumble feta in a bowl. Place chorizo cubes on a plate and put in the microwave for 2 minutes and you will see the oils oozing out. This will add flavor to your muffins.

Sift flour and mix all dry ingredients. Add half of the chorizo and feta and mix well.

Beat the eggs until light and add the milk and melted butter making sure that the butter is not hot. Stir and add into dry mixture only enough to dampen the flour. Do not over mix and the texture should be lumpy.

Pour into muffin cases arranged on a muffin tray. Sprinkle the rest of the chorizo and muffin mix on top of the muffins.

Bake for 15 to 20 minutes if your muffins are standard size. If you are making larger ones like mine, they will need 30 – 35 minutes descending on your oven. Leave to cool in muffin tray.

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Ready to bake

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Delicious freshly baked Chorizo and Feta Breakfast Muffins…

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Storing summer in a jar … Strawberry Jam

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There is a quaint strawberry village in the north of the island where fat luscious strawberries are harvested from April and last through the summer. This island is truly blessed with all that is good in life. We can indulge in a fresh handpicked strawberry feast every single day all through the summer.

There is something quite rewarding about preserving a taste of the summer in a jar…

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You will need :

1 kg strawberries
1 kg sugar
25 g pectin
juice of 3 lemons

This recipe yields 12 jars of 150g each.

I made the jam on the same day the strawberries were picked, it makes a difference.

Wash the strawberries thoroughly, hull them and cut them in half. Remove any bruising and spots and do not use over ripe strawberries.

Place them in a large pot with the lemon juice and bring to a boil on moderate heat. Stir in the sugar and pectin and stir gently until the sugar has dissolved.

Bring the strawberries to a boil until it reaches setting point.

I used the saucer method for testing the setting point. Place a saucer in the freezer and test the jam by putting a few drops on the cold plate. If the jam wrinkles when you push it with your finger, it has reach setting point. If it is still runny, return to heat, boil and retest. The best color is achieved when the jam is not over heated for a long period of time, but this is a matter of preference. I have heard some people say that they like a darker color. I prefer a redder jam as it will retain the natural strawberry color and remind us of summer !

Now you will need to sterilize the jars. Rinse them in clean warm water and allow them to drip dry and place upside down on an rack in the oven at 140C for half an hour.

Pour the jam into the jars preferably through a funnel. I wear latex gloves to prevent contamination. I poured the jam into warm jars while it was still warm.

If you are going to store the jam, I suggest placing a disc of waxed baking paper onto the jam before covering with a lid.

You will need to store the jam in a cool dark place.

The result is packed with flavor, pure compact strawberries in this tiny jar. You can taste the goodness. Even a spread on a plain slice of toast becomes an indulgent treat.

I intend to try this jam again with less sugar and no pectin and compare taste and texture. Just knowing what has gone into my jam makes it taste better ….Freshly picked from Strawberry Village !
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Ready to indulge …..

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