Friday, March 25, 2011

Chocolate & Zucchini Cake

My weekly column and recipe for The Daily News Egypt. I'm quite surprised with the way this turned out. Zucchini has become a friend I'm beginning to trust a little more than I used to. 
Chocolate & Zucchini Cake

You'll need:
½ cup of unsalted butter
½ cup of vegetable oil
1 of caster sugar
¾ cups of brown sugar
1 ½ teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon of baking powder
½ teaspoon of salt
2 large eggs
½ cup of yogurt
2 ¼ cup of all-purpose flour
¾ cup of unsweetened cocoa powder
2 teaspoons of espresso powder
2 cups of shredded zucchini
½ cup of bittersweet chocolate chips

For the ganache:
1 cup of heavy cream
1 ½ cup of chocolate chips

Preheat your oven to 170 degrees Celsius. Grease your baking pan. Cream together the butter, oil, sugar, vanilla, baking soda, baking powder and salt. Beat in the eggs one at a time until well combined. Stir in the yogurt alternately with the flour. Then add the cocoa and espresso powder, mixing until smooth. Finally, fold in the zucchini and 1/2 cup of chocolate chips. Spoon the batter into your prepared pan. Bake the cake for 35-40 minutes or until a wooden skewer or thin knife inserted in the center comes out clean. Remove the cake from the oven and cool on a rack. To prepare the ganache, heat the heavy cream in a saucepan over medium heat until it comes to a boil. Remove from heat and pour in the chocolate chips. Stir until completely combined and glossy. Allow the ganache to cool before pouring over cake.

Monday, March 21, 2011

A Letter to a Mother, Mine.

I wish I had something good enough to say to you but I seem to clam up every time I try because I cannot find the words to prove to you, year after year, that you are a force to be reckoned with. So, as always, I'll write and hope that everything I can't seem to express verbally will come pouring out onto my screen. I think it's funny how I just said that I can't seem to express things verbally when most people I know would think that I am the farthest thing away from that; but you, my mother, know very well that many of those words that come gushing out are a reflex, an eternal shield that hides the many faces of myself that have manifested over the years. 

So I've crossed my mid-20s and "grown up"; although I don't necessarily believe that to be 100% true, I'll accept it because that's what everyone expects of me. While growing up, I've been exposed to a handful of friends with bad mothers or should we say, neglectful mothers. Now, as an adult, watching new generations of children, the increase in the number of those neglectful mothers frightens me. It frightens me because I am scared to be hypocritical. It scares me because there's a selfish part inside of me and I'm scared of it dying and giving itself up for a child. I am scared that I will never measure up to you. 

You've been through so much and have emerged a triumphant hero. It's not easy to come close to that. In my eyes, you've always been a hero though. As a kid, you were my towering wall of strength - thank you for allowing me to hide behind your dress and your strong spirit. As a teenager, you were my unbreakable conscience and my voice of reason that didn't exist at the time - thank you for holding onto my wrist and pulling for your life through out my volatile teenage tug of war even when my arm hurt like hell and I told you to let me be. As an adult, you are my inspiration and that is a much bigger word than it seems - thank you for pushing through to make me believe that I, too, am stronger than I think. I, too, can fight for my family and what is right and that I, too, will never shun my responsibilities because they are hard or because I am lazy. 

You, singlehandedly, have taught me what it is to be a woman - pretty in pink and smelling perfumey alternating with a barefoot, messy-haired, flour-dusted wild child bursting out every day to hone her skills in whatever, whenever she can. I cannot thank you enough because what I see around me, more often than not, are women who have been conditioned to believe that being a woman involves replicating Sex and the City - with or without the sex - and continuing with the charade or parade, if you'd like to call it. I feel really special to have a mother who could shuffle both fulfilling the accepted expectation of keeping up appearances and looking good because it makes you feel good all the while really, honestly, wholeheartedly, being a mom who insists on doing everything herself to ensure that we would turn out to be respectable and achieving members of society. Thank you for never hiring a nanny and for never hiring live-in help. All I can say is: Yuck!

Oh, and for having my sister. Thank you so much. She's been really fun to have around. It's nice hearing her voice in my head when I'm reaching out for chips instead of raisins and it's nice to visualize her finger pointing upwards in protest.

So what I'm trying to say is this: I could never have wished to have a better mother. I could never have dreamed to have a smarter mother-in-law to my husband. I might have never gotten involved in the kitchen if it hadn't been for your spirit cheering me on from Egypt. I can't say enough. I really am truly blessed to have you and to have you bring us together as a family, always. Happy Mother's Day. I love you and I miss you tremendously. See you soon. Xx. 

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Lemon Crunch Drizzle Cake (the artist formerly known as Lemon Drizzle Cake)

I'm surprised. I've looked over Tana Ramsay's book a few times at the bookshop and have always secretly accused her of selling cookbooks just because she's married to Gordon Ramsay. But I'm changing my mind. On a weird day like today (lazy in Malaysia but exciting in Egypt), I decided to try out her Lemon Drizzle Cake recipe only because I couldn't find a better picture of one, to be honest. I'm such a sucker for a pretty picture of a recipe with good reviews. So yes, I'm surprised. It turned out quite well. It's soft, it's moist and it's got a light texture. I added more lemon though because I wasn't really looking for a wishy-washy lemon flavor and I'm glad I don't regret my decision. Sorry, Tana. :)

On another note, I wish I was in Egypt today to vote in my country for the first time. I'm getting teary-eyed and excited reading everyone's tweets while they stand in line, waiting their turn to take part in this historic moment in Egypt's history. If you're Egyptian and you're in Egypt and you're still sitting at home today, please go down and vote. Do it for all of us abroad who still don't have a voice and can't vote from our homes away from home. Oh, and, I love you guys. 

Lemon Crunch Drizzle Cake
Adapted from Tana Ramsay's Lemon Drizzle Cake recipe
(I upped the lemon zest and didn't dissolve the sugar completely 
to keep the crunchy topping I like.)
You'll need: 
225 grams of softened unsalted butter
225 grams of caster sugar
4 eggs
finely grated zest of 2 and a half large lemons
225 grams of self-raising flour
For the crunchy drizzle: 
Juice of 1 1/2 lemons
85 grams of caster sugar
Preheat your oven to 180 degrees Celsius. Beat together the butter and sugar until pale and creamy, then add the eggs, one at a time, slowly mixing through. Sift in the flour, then add the lemon zest and mix until well combined. Line a loaf tin with greaseproof paper, then spoon in the mixture and level the top with a spoon.
Bake for 45-50 minutes until a thin skewer inserted into the centre of the cake comes out clean. While the cake is cooling in its tin, mix together the lemon juice and sugar to make the drizzle. Prick the warm cake all over with a skewer or fork, then pour over the drizzle - the juice will sink in and the sugar will form a lovely, crisp topping. Leave in the tin until completely cool, then remove and serve. Will keep in an airtight container for 3-4 days, or freeze for up to one month.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Black Bread! Muahaha!

Until recently, the sight of charred bread made me feel a little naughty on the inside. Yes, sadly, I have always been one of those people that secretly crush on the taste of burnt bread but don't actually indulge in it publicly for fear of being ridiculed by ridiculous friends. Analyzing it, you might say that I was drawn to how black the bread gets, you could say I liked that chalky charcoaly flavor, or you could just assume I'm insane and stop analyzing it. As I grew older, I stopped intentionally scorching my bread to hell and thought I was over that urge to scrape at the burnt corners and achieve that ever appealing look of black flecks all over my teeth. So what happens when the Bread Torturer finds a loaf of black bread at the bakery? She turns into Mr. Burns tenting his fingers and whispers, "Excellent." 
But lo and behold, it isn't charred, it isn't dry and it isn't food coloring. It's really cool though. See? 
At various bakeries around the city, it's labeled "Charcoal Bread". I remember slightly gritting my teeth before trying it for the first time. I didn't know what to expect and I was a little worried. Because you can't find it in many places worldwide, I thought it would have a different texture to it, let alone flavor. Turns out: nope! Not by much. I've tried a few variations and although some versions are a little sweeter, I found that most of them taste like store-bought packaged pre-sliced white bread. So basically, if you know how to make basic white bread, all you'd need to do is add a little bamboo charcoal powder to it, which is supposedly tasteless, and you've got... charcoal bread! I found a Japanese video with English subtitles though. The dude says the charcoal sticks to the impurities in your stomach and flushes them out. So yesterday, we bought a load and today, hooray for grilled cheese sandwiches in charcoal bread! The end. 

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Revolution Koshari

What's been happening on the streets of Egypt has had me glued to the news for almost a month and a half now. My column in the newspaper has been resumed and I'm finally back to the kitchen after detaching myself from the television and taking part in a workshop held by a French chef here in Malaysia. I'll probably blog about that soon. Until then, here's the link to the latest column with a recipe. It's based on a traditional Egyptian dish comprising of rice, vermicelli, pasta, lentils, chickpeas and fried onions topped with a tomato-garlic-vinegar sauce. 
Koshari-inspired Spaghetti
By eliminating the rice in koshary, you ultimately end up with an interesting pasta dish

You'll need:
500 gm of spaghetti, cooked al dente
2 small onions, chopped
2 tablespoons of ghee
400 grams of chickpeas, cooked
150 grams of brown lentils, cooked

For the sauce:
1/3 cup of olive oil
5 heaped tablespoons of tomato paste
2 leveled tablespoons of all-purpose flour
5-7 cloves of garlic, sliced, depending on the strength
1.5 teaspoons of chili powder
3 tablespoons of vinegar
1 tablespoon of brown sugar
5-6 cups of water, depending on your preferred sauce thickness
Salt and pepper, to taste

Begin with the sauce. Heat your oil in a pot on medium heat. Add the flour and tomato paste. Constantly whisk until all is combined into a smooth paste. Cook on low heat for a minute until it begins to sweat. Add the sliced garlic, chili and vinegar and incorporate into the roux. Add the water, stir then boil once and reduce heat to a low simmer. Simmer until it has thickened and the sauce coats the back of a spoon. Mix the cooked pasta with the chickpeas and lentils and set aside. Fry the chopped onions in the ghee until they reach a deep brown color. Serve the sauce over the pasta and garnish with fried onions.
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