Sunday, 25 July 2010

Spinach and Ricotta Lasagne Cupcakes

Doesn't this look gorgeous. Ok, so its stretching the truth a little to call it a cupcake but it definitely holds lasagne and isn't it sweet? I made a big pile of them in all different flavours to serve at the cafe and another pile for visitors heading out for a loch-side picnic, next I will try them as little mini cupcakes for a party.

Lasagne is one of my all-time favourite comfort foods so a mini portable version seemed like a cute idea. In Scotland we can't be too complacent about the weather at any time of the year so planning a summer picnic becomes a hazardous activity. We made the cupcakes, then double wrapped them in foil to keep them from cooling down too quickly and sent them on their way to warm up our guests as they sat appreciating Loch Lomond on a blustery summer's day.

As well as the spinach/ricotta cupcakes there are butternut squash/goat cheese and venison/Isle of Mull cheddar cupcakes.
Oh and they freeze well so can be defrosted and heated up in a warm oven for a speedy supper, how cool is that?

Lasagne Cupcakes (spinach, ricotta and walnut)
2 tbsp olive oil                                                                                      
1 pack (170g) filo pastry sheet              
1 pack fresh lasagne sheets
Good quality tomato sauce (bought or home-made)
300g fresh spinach, cooked and with any excess liquid squeezed out
1/2 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
50g walnuts, chopped roughly
250g ricotta cheese
100g grated parmesan cheese 

Prepare a muffin or cupcake tin by spraying or brushing lightly with oil. Cut filo pastry into squares slightly bigger than you need to fit your muffin or cupcake tin. Line each cupcake tin with 2 layers of filo pastry, one on top of the other with the excess hanging over the edges.  Stir the walnuts and nutmeg through the spinach. Cut circles of lasagne to fit the cupcake tin with a cookie cutter.

To assemble:
In the bottom of each cupcake, place one layer of lasagne. 
Next top with a tablespoon of tomato sauce, then a spoonful of spinach. 
Finally top with a dollop of ricotta and another layer of lasagne. 
Repeat until your cupcake is full. 
Top each filled filo pastry "cake" with a sprinkling of parmesan cheese. 
Bake in the oven for around 15 minutes until brown and gorgeous.

Thursday, 22 July 2010

Mango Lime Coleslaw

What makes coleslaw coleslaw? I think its the cabbage because otherwise this recipe would just be a stunning little salsa. Instead, with the addition of some shredded cabbage, it transforms into a fresh take on traditional coleslaw. The dressing is lighter, healthier and zestier, the vegetables sweet and summery.

How on earth did we live before Google. I saw a recipe for mango coleslaw on Smitten Kitchen's site and wanted to try it immediately but didn't have all the ingredients so googled mango coleslaw and discovered a whole new world of fruity coleslaws that will be starring in my kitchen all summer. 

This gorgeous version is based on Smitten Kitchen's recipe with a few tweaks according to what I had in the cupboard. We ate it served on flatbreads with smoked mackerel. Gorgeous.

Mango Coleslaw
1 mango, sliced thinly
1 head chinese cabbage, chopped finely
1 red onion, thinly sliced into half moons
2 roasted red peppers sliced thinly
1 handful salted peanuts, roughly chopped 

2 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp fresh lime juice
Grated zest of 1 lime
1 hot red chilli, finely chopped
3cm of root ginger, grated

Throw all the fruit and vegetables in a large bowl and stir well.
Whisk together the dressing ingredients and pour over.
Leave an hour or two to allow the dressing flavours to mix.
Just before serving, sprinkle with the peanuts.

Sunday, 11 July 2010

Banana Cupcakes with Chocolate Fudge Frosting

I don't like big cakes. I've tried ordering slices of victoria sponge in cafes, or triple layer carrot cakes in tea shops but I simple can't get over the feeling that I am stealing a piece of someone else's cake. I like to have my own cake. I don't care if it's big or small as long as it is all mine. So after years of skirting around the issue, trying to persuade myself to eat slices of cake from dessert trollies, I have decided that from now on I will only be eating cupcakes and other individually packaged treats (obviously brownies and other tray-bakes are not included in this declaration, that would just be silly). 
So at the cafe, individual cakes are definitely the order of the day. We have already had lots of cupcake orders for children's parties (these banana cupcakes were for an 8 year old's birthday party) so my plan this summer is to expand my repertoire of cupcakes and get lots of practice at pretty decorative frosting. There are worse things that seeing the summer stretch ahead filled with piles of flavoured cupcakes: cappucinno and espresso, mojito and strawberry daquiri are just for starters.

Banana Cupcakes with Chocolate Fudge Frosting

Chocolate Fudge Frosting
25g butter
25g cream cheese
2 tbsp cocoa powder
200g icing sugar
1 tbsp milk

Beat the butter and cream cheese with a wooden spoon until soft. 
Sieve the icing sugar and cocoa powder into the butter mixture and beat until well blended.
Add a tablespoon of milk if necessary to reach a thick spreading consistency. 
Cover with clingfilm and place in the fridge until the cupcakes are cool. 

Banana Cupcakes
170g butter
170g caster sugar
170g self raising flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
3 eggs, whisked together
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 medium bananas, chopped 

Preheat the oven to 180C
With an electric beater, cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy.
Add a tablespoon of flour and fold in to the mixture.
Add the eggs and vanilla extract to the batter mixing well, then fold in the flour, baking powder and salt. 
Gently stir the bananas into the mixture
Line two muffin tins with 18 cases and divide the batter between them.
Bake for 18-20 minutes until the cupcakes are golden brown. 
Cool on a wire rack then top with chocolate fudge frosting and decorate with dragees, smarties or chocolate chips. 

Thursday, 8 July 2010

Scotch Whisky Glazed Salmon

I've not been cooking at home properly for a few weeks now. Too much reliance on good weather and a barbecue means that now the sun has disappeared, I am left wondering what we usually live on. Cooking in the cafe all day means that evening meals mid-week need to be healthy and summery but quick and easy to give me a break from the kitchen.

Looking for a robust flavour to add some interest to a piece of unremarkable salmon, something that would stand up to the smokiness of the barbecue but not drown out the delicate flavour of the fish I was hunting around in the cupboard and came across a collection of malt whisky bottles with a shot left in each. Finally deciding on a lightly peaty Talisker whisky, I marinated it for an hour or so then griddled it on the barbecue. adding a gorgeous rich smoky depth of flavour to the fish.

This could be thrown on the barbie and cooked in minutes to serve with a salad but if you are rained off, it is just as lovely on the griddle as the whisky brings its own distinctive smokiness.

Scotch Whisky Glazed Salmon
4x150g (6oz) salmon fillets
2tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp Scotch whisky (I used Talisker but any good flavoured whisky would do)
2 tbsp honey
2 tbsp soy sauce
2 tbsp orange juice
2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped

Mix together the whisky, honey, soy sauce, orange juice and garlic in a ziplock bag.
Add the salmon fillets and marinate for 1 hour 
Heat the olive oil in a griddle pan or heavy frying pan.
Place the salmon fillets in the pan skin-side down and baste with the marinade.
Fry for 2-3 minutes then turn and fry the other side for a minute or two until the fish is opaque.
Remove the fish to a plate, drizzle with the juices from the pan.
Serve with green salad.